African Union summit: Sudan says no to UN troops

Sunday, July 2, 2006

The Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has rejected an UN offer of up to 17,000 troops to stem the continuing crisis within the country.

Bashir met with the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Sunday at the 7th African Union Summit being held in the Gambian capital Banjul. In a speech to delegates from across the continent, Mr. Annan, who was born in Ghana, labeled the Darfur crisis as "one of the worst nightmares in recent history". But Mr. Bashir said he was concerned that a UN mandate would be seen as a "western invasion" that would attract militants and create a situation similar to Iraq.

Kofi Annan said that he hoped dialogue would continue on the issue. The current African Union (AU) force of 7,000 has struggled to maintain order in a country with over 2.5 million displaced citizens. There have also been accusations of rape by AU soldiers inside camps.

In his speech, Mr Annan praised the progress in development across the continent since 1997 saying,"Despite elections, many Governments continue to suppress opposition parties and a free press. Many continue to exclude certain groups from participation in public life. Many continue to practise or tolerate large scale corruption," in his last address to the AU.

Also in attendance at the summit was Hissene Habre, Chad's leader until 1990. He will face trial in Senegal, according to an announcement made Sunday by the Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade.

Habre is accused of human rights abuses during his reign, including 200,000 counts of torture. There has been much wrangling as to who should try the former leader. Belgium initially stepped in to hold the trial, but Mr. Wade agreed with the AU that "Africans must be judged in Africa."

Former president Habre ruled Chad for eight years before being removed after an uprising by current president Idriss Deby.