Non-African troops will not be needed for the new Darfur peacekeeping force in Sudan because countries on the continent have committed enough soldiers, the head of the African Union said.
The Sudanese government is adamantly opposed to non-Africans playing any major role in the hybrid UN-African Union operation that was authorised by the UN Security Council on July 31 and will be made up of 20,000 peacekeepers and 6,000 civilian police.
The comments yesterday by AU chairman Alpha Oumar Konare appeared to contradict statements made by the US envoy to Sudan, Andrew Natsios, that the government in Khartoum would have to accept non-African troops in the beefed-up force because the continent does not have enough trained soldiers to fully staff the peacekeeping contingent.
“I can confirm today that we have received sufficient commitments from African countries that we will not have to resort to non-African forces,” Konare said following a brief meeting with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum.
Konare later said outside forces would only be needed if African countries did not follow through with their commitments.
“Non-African forces would be needed only in case the African countries would not be in a position to provide the number of troops agreed-upon,” he said.
Konare said representatives from the AU and the UN would meet in New York in September to discuss the hybrid force.
Disagreements over the composition of the mission were a major reason the authorisation was delayed for months despite mounting pressure for Sudan to stop the violence that has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced 2.5 million in the past four years.
Konare gave no details about which countries had pledged forces but several African nations have made announcements regarding troops.
In addition to the AU forces currently in Darfur that are expected to stay on, Nigeria, Malawi and Rwanda have offered to deploy another battalion each, about 2,400 troops total, and Senegal said it would triple its contingent to 1,600.
Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt and Ethiopia also have pledged to contribute troops or add to current contingents for a joint force.
According to the UN resolution, the composition of the force must be decided by August 30.