News and Information
Darfur talks resume despite hitch
|October 21, 2004
| Peace talks between Sudan's government and Darfur rebels are expected to resume on Thursday, despite many participants being delayed en route.
Rebel groups say travel problems have prevented many of their representatives from reaching the talks venue in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
The talks restart after the African Union (AU) agreed to boost its military force in Darfur to more than 3,000.
The AU hopes they will be deployed by early next month for up to a year.
However the agreed rise is less than the 4,500 hoped for by the the union's chairman - Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria - to stem more than 18 months of violence.
An estimated 70,000 people have died since the Darfur conflict broke out.
The second round of peace talks is expected to last for three weeks.
There was some confusion about whether the talks would open on Thursday as planned, as many leaders of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) are still stuck in Chad, Kenya and Libya, unable to get flights.
Only a handful of the movement's representatives have reached Abuja.
Meanwhile the other rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Movement, has complained that the AU failed to provide transport in time for many of its delegates.
The AU special envoy to Darfur, Hamid al-Gabid, told the BBC the opening ceremony would go ahead, albeit a few hours late.
However, the BBC's Anna Borzello in Abuja says it is likely the talks proper will only begin when all the delegates are in Nigeria.
It is an inauspicious start to the second round of talks, our correspondent says.
The first ended last month without any concrete result.
'Onus on government'
The Sudanese government delegation is expected to arrive later on Thursday.
The chief JEM negotiator said it was up to the government to show its commitment to peace.
AFRICAN UNION FORCE
Armed protection troops: 1,700
Unarmed troops: 641
Civilian police: 815
Civilian staff: 164
Total no: 3,320
Q&A: Darfur conflict
"We're prepared to talk peace and achieve peace because this is crucial to solving the humanitarian crisis in Darfur," Ahmed Tugod said, quoted by AFP news agency.
This is why we are here for another round of dialogue. But it all depends on the government side."
Sudan said earlier it would accept an expanded AU force, but was opposed to any attempt to change its role to one of peacekeeping.
Some 2,341 military personnel will be charged with guaranteeing security in a region the size of Iraq, and reining in the Janjaweed militia blamed for displacing some 1.5 million people.
Meanwhile, 815 civilian police will be tasked with manning security in and around displaced people's camps.
Around 300 Rwandan and Nigerian unarmed troops are already in Darfur.
The force will be funded to the tune of $220m mainly by the European Union, the AU says.
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