Sudan?s rejection of a UN effort to deploy an international peacekeeping force to the Darfur region has drawn criticism from foreign governments and human rights groups. Human Rights Watch (HRW) is a NGO that monitors the ongoing attacks in Darfur that are primarily affecting the civilian population. The organization says there is no foundation to President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir?s characterization of a UN presence as a colonial intrusion in Darfur.

HRW Deputy Director for Africa, Georgette Gagnon says in fact that UN forces deployed to Southern Sudan and other African countries play a vital role in quelling conflict and curbing violence. She tells Voice of America English to Africa reporter Howard Lesser that African soldiers actively participate in the UN missions, which bear little resemblance to a colonial imposition. 

?Bashir?s statement that UN forces in Darfur would be a colonial intrusion is simply ridiculous. There are already UN forces in Southern Sudan that are monitoring implementation of the peace agreement between Bashir?s government and Southern-based rebels. There are also 14 UN peacekeeping missions in African countries in the past several years: Angola, Liberia, Libya, Mozambique, Uganda, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone, just to name a few. These forces always have contingents from African states, either as peacekeepers or military observers or as civilian police.?

Gagnon says Bashir?s latest statements contrast sharply with signals of flexibility shown by Sudanese diplomats in Khartoum and at the Darfur peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria.

?There seems to be some disconnect. Obviously, we must remember that when the Darfur peace agreement was being negotiated, the Khartoum government said that it would accept UN troops to come in and monitor a peace agreement. Now, it?s backtracking.? 

The HRW executive also says she hopes that the Bush Administration will act quickly to fill the recently vacated post of the Sudan Special Envoy Robert Zoellick, who announced his departure from government earlier this week. 

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