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Joint Darfur mission short of air transport units

[Sudan] African Union peacekeepers in South Darfur. [Date picture taken: Aug 2005]
Most pledges have been for the contribution of infantry units (Derk Segaar/IRIN)

The African Union/UN hybrid mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has received commitments for most of its infantry requirements but has yet to secure pledges for air transport, a senior official said.

"We are talking about attack and utility helicopters, heavy lift transport units," Henry Anyidoho, the AU-UN Deputy Joint Special Representative Designate in Sudan, said in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa. "These are still outstanding. We have not received any pledges."

An update presented to the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) meeting in Addis Ababa on 23 October identified some of the critical shortfalls as medium utility helicopter units, medium heavy transport units - where one out of three required had been pledged - and one light practical helicopter unit.

"This will have [a] negative impact on the UNAMID operational capability," the report noted, adding that one light tactical helicopter pledged by Jordan was not approved because of inadequate range.

In New York, the UN Security Council said it was deeply concerned about delays in the deployment of the mission, and called on member states to provide the required air and ground transport units.

A statement issued after a closed-door briefing from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 24 October also urged Sudanese parties to participate in the forthcoming Darfur talks in Sirte, Libya.

"The Council underlines its willingness to take action against any party that seeks to undermine the peace process, including by failing to respect such a cessation of hostilities or by impeding the talks, peacekeeping or humanitarian aid," it said.

According to the PSC, the UNAMID operation, expected to be operational in early 2008, was complementary to the political talks in Libya.

However, at least five rebel groups from Darfur said they will boycott the Libya talks.

Speaking to reporters from Eritrea, UN special envoy to Darfur Jan Eliasson said there was "very little hope" that prominent rebel leader and founder of the Sudan Liberation Movement Abdul Wahid el-Nur would attend, while Khalil Ibrahim of the Justice and Equality Movement had asked for a delay.

"We may have a very dangerous development if we miss this opportunity. We are now coming close to the moment of truth. I would say [it is] the moment of hope for Darfur," Eliasson said.

Preparations, added the envoy – who is co-convener of the 27 October talks alongside AU envoy Salim Ahmed Salim – had also been affected by a recent upsurge of violence in Darfur.
 
The UN estimates that at least 200,000 people have died since fighting began in 2003 between government forces, allied Janjawid militia and rebel groups in Darfur. Another 2.2 million have been displaced from their homes, bringing the number of those affected by the conflict to 4.2 million.


Photo: Derk Segaar/IRIN
Rebel fighters in Darfur

UNAMID was established by the Security Council in July 2007. It will incorporate the 7,000 AU troops currently de ployed in Darfur and have a total strength of 19,555 military and 6,432 police personnel - making it one of the largest UN peacekeeping missions in history.

The troops are expected from Burkina Faso, Egypt, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal. Other potential contributors are Bangladesh, Jordan, Nordic countries, Nepal, Netherlands and Thailand.

Anyidoho said a Nigerian battalion had arrived in Darfur, while Rwandan troops would deploy in October “for the protection of heavy support package assets and personnel".
 
Preparations for the deployment of support units have been ongoing. A Chinese engineering unit was expected to deploy to Nyala in November. Others were expected from Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Jordan.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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