CAIRO/KHARTOUM: On Sunday African Union Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare said that there would be no need for non-African troops in the new UN peacekeeping force that is set to be deployed in the Darfur region of Sudan.
He said that the African Union had secured enough pledges from African states to fully staff the 26,000-strong peacekeeping force.
“I can confirm today that we have received sufficient commitments from African countries that we will not have to resort to non-African forces, the chairman told reporters following a meeting with the Sudanese president in Khartoum.
The Sudanese government was initially opposed to the Security Council resolution passed on July 31 authorizing the UN peacekeeping force. It is still unwilling to allow any non-African troops into the country and is demanding that the operation be conducted solely by African militaries.
Hany Raslan, a Egyptian specialist on Sudan, explained that the Sudanese government doesn’t want political interests getting in the way of the operation. “It doesn’t want the soldiers to be tools of the British or American governments, he told Daily News Egypt.
Raslan said that President Bashir has sent 45 representatives to 15 African states to persuade them to contribute troops.
The UN deployment will replace an existing peacekeeping force of 7,000 African Union troops, which has been trying unsuccessfully since 2005 to control the violence in the region.
On Monday, Mahmoud Kane, the head of the African Union’s Darfur Integrated Task Force, confirmed that six African countries had given written pledges to contribute troops – Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Malawi, and Senegal. The pledges amount to approximately 12,000 troops.
Egypt itself has promised to send two battalions and three squadrons. It has also said that it will build a field hospital in North Darfur to aid with peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.
We believe it is a positive response from Africa, Kane told the Associated Press.
There have also been informal pledges made by Tanzania, Cameroon, and Uganda.
However, even with these committed troops and the existing AU peacekeepers currently in Darfur, there will need to be at least 7,000 more troops from other African countries in order to meet the required 26,000. In addition, some experts have expressed concern about the capabilities of the African militaries.
“The UN troops need to be directed under qualified leadership, said Nabil Abdel Fatah, deputy head of Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. “The African troops are not qualified and their efficiency is very low. In order to have a serious peaceful resolution to this violence it is imperative that the leadership be of the highest quality.
He told Daily New Egypt that he didn’t believe the Sudanese government would have its way and that the international community would insist on sending non-African troops.
Western officials have also expressed concern over the capabilities of an all-African peacekeeping force.
On Tuesday, US envoy to Sudan, Andrew Natsios, said that Khartoum would have to accept non-African troops because African armies do not have enough trained soldiers for the peacekeeping operation to be successful.
The US embassy in Sudan also confirmed that the United States has concerns about the capabilities of the African states to commit troops. Embassy representative, Joel Maybury, told Daily News Egypt in a telephone interview that the US would “have to see if the African states make good on their commitments. We have to do a strategic analysis and see what’s available. We must ensure that the most capable force is conducting this operation in Darfur.
But he also said that, ultimately, it is the responsibility of the United Nations to decide who are the most qualified and appropriate troops to run the operation.
The resolution states that the composition must be agreed upon by Aug. 30, 2007 so that the deployment can take place at the end of the year.