The Africa Union (AU)/UN hybrid mission in Darfur (UNAMID), set up to replace the AU?s African Mission in Sudan (AMIS), on Wednesday inaugurated it?s operational base in the town of El Fasher. When fully in place, the force, which was established by the Security Council in July 2007, will comprise more than 19,000 military and close to 6500 police personnel.

It is widely hoped that the hybrid force will be more effective in protecting civilians in Darfur than AMIS, which was only 7000 strong.

The troops will be made up of personnel from several countries, including Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Senegal.

Sam Ibok is Ambassador and Advisor to AU Special Envoy Salim Ahmed Salim. From Sirte, Libya, where he is attending the Darfur peace talks, he explained to Akwei Thompson of Nightline Africa the significance of the hybrid force in the larger context of bringing peace to the region.

?There are three components to the process in Darfur. The first is the humanitarian, which I dare say is going very well because humanitarian assistance is being delivered to those in need.?

The second component, he added, is ?the peace keeping force, which is intended to pacify the situation in Darfur and to secure the area, and that is what UNAMID has just done.?

Ibok emphasized that the launching of the UNAMID headquarters on October 31 is significant ?because it is consistent with the time frames which were envisaged in UN Security Council Resolution 1769...?

The third component, Ambassador Ibok said, is the peace negotiations. ?We are hoping that a favorable environment in Darfur - on the humanitarian, on the security - will provide a more conducive environment for the political process which has just started in Sirte to be consummated.?