News and Information

Sudan: AU Scolds Sudan for New Attacks As UN Deadline Expires
August 31, 2004

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

August 30, 2004
Posted to the web August 31, 2004


Nigerian President and current African Union chairman Olusegun Obasanjo said on Monday that AU ceasefire monitors had confirmed recent attacks by Sudanese government troops on Darfur civilians and urged Khartoum to put a stop to the violence.

The AU reprimand came on the day a United Nations deadline expired for Khartoum to prove it has taken concrete steps to disarm the Janjawid pro-government militia and protect civilians, or face possible sanctions.

Rebels from Sudan's troubled western Darfur region staged a 24-hour boycott of peace talks being held in the Nigerian capital Abuja over the weekend, protesting about the killing of 75 civilians in six villages by the pro-government Janjawid militia.

A statement from the Nigerian presidency on Monday said Obasanjo had written to his Sudanese counterpart after the attacks had been confirmed by AU ceasefire monitors.

"He has written... asking him to ensure that all attacks by government forces and the Janjawid cease forthwith lest the international community might draw the conclusion that the Abuja talks are being undermined," said the statement signed by presidential spokeswoman Oluremi Oyo.

The Sudanese government, which has accused the rebel movement of its own ceasefire violations, played down Obasanjo's warning at the end of talks on Monday.

"Actually the Sudanese government is enforcing the ceasefire agreement and does not need to be reminded to do so," the leader of Khartoum's delegation, Agriculture Minister Majzoub al-Khalifa, was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

The UN says the world's worst humanitarian crisis is currently unfolding in Darfur, where the Sudanese government has been trying to stamp out an insurgency by rebel groups demanding a better political and economic deal for the region.

As many as 50,000 people are believed to have died during the 18-month conflict and some 1.5 million more have been forced to flee their homes after the burning and looting of black African villages by the Janjawid.

Deadlock after deadlock

The peace talks in Abuja, which entered their second week on Monday, have brought Sudanese government ministers and rebel leaders around the table with the aim of finding a political solution for Darfur.

But delegates have been waylaid by a series of squabbles over ceasefire violations and eventual disarmament.

The latest deadlock is over conditions in camps where displaced Darfuris are sheltering. The rebels and the government cannot agree on an assessment of the humanitarian situation and how to improve it.

The AU hopes to find a way out of the impasse when talks resume on Tuesday, by presenting its own proposal for improving conditions on the ground using input from both sides, an AU spokesman said.

"We hope to sign something on the humanitarian situation, maybe not tomorrow but Wednesday," AU spokesman Assane Ba told IRIN after talks ended on Monday.

But even when the humanitarian hurdle has been cleared, the second item on the agenda, security, looks equally thorny.

The AU has suggested that while Khartoum disarms the Janjawid, around 2,000 AU troops could be used to move rebel forces back to designated bases as a precursor to planned disarmament.

Sudan has given tentative approval to the idea but the rebels are staunchly opposed to any disarmament moves before a political deal is agreed and implemented.

On Monday, 155 Nigerian troops left Abuja for war-torn Darfur, where they will join 155 Rwandan soldiers already on the ground. Their mandate, for the moment, is simply to provide protection for AU ceasefire monitors.


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