"Darfur a powder keg" says UN Head of Humanitarian Affairs

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Darfur region in western Sudan

Speaking in Khartoum today, Jan Egeland, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator of the United Nations, said “this is the moment of truth. We are playing with a powder keg”. This followed disagreement about the role that UN would play in providing a force to help deal with the crisis in Darfur.

Kofi Annan, retiring UN Secretary General, yesterday announced agreement of African, Arab and European leaders to provide a 20,000 force to supplement the 7,000 African Union peacekeepers trying to cope with the situation that had resulted in 240,000 being killed and 2.5 million being displaced during three years of conflict in the western region.

Annan—disagreement over joint peacekeeping force

However, Lam Akol, the Sudanese foreign minister, said: "What we agreed upon in Addis Ababa was the African Union (AU) force assuming full command, while the UN role would be confined to providing technical and logistical assistance to the AU mission." No dates had been agreed for the deployment of the UN forces.

Egeland said that the delay would cause the situation to become infinitely worse and would prevent the ingress of humanitarian aid to the millions affected.

New violence

The African Union is reported as saying that Birmaza, a northern village, has been attacked by the Sudanese government troops and Janjaweed militia with air support. 70 dead are reported. The Sudan government has denied that it supports the Janjaweed.

Darfur conflict threatens to spread

Chad Prime Minister Pascal Yoadimnadji says that “mercenaries in the pay of the Sudanese” have invaded towns in northeast Central African Republic. He said troops would be sent to help the Republic resist these incursions. Sudan continues to deny supporting the mercenaries.