AU observers off to Sudan's war-ravaged Darfur

Addis Ababa- Ethiopia (PANA) -- Nearly four weeks since Africa's Peace and Security Council decided on early deployment of a cease-fire monitoring group in Darfur region, a reconnaissance mission left here Friday for the new conflict spot in western Sudan.
The mission, expected to last nine days, comprises civilian and military staff from the African Union Commission and a representative of Chad on the AU team mediating the 14-month Darfur conflict.
Also on the same mission are representatives of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and France.
The AU-led reconnaissance mission will assess existing conditions for the establishment of a Cease-fire Commission, provided for in the Humanitarian Cease-fire Agreement on the Darfur Conflict.
Opposing parties in the conflict, namely the Government of Sudan, on the one hand, Sudan Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), on the other, signed the ceasefire accord on 8 April 2004 in the Chadian capital, N'djamena.
In addition to consulting with authorities in Khartoum and with leaders of SLA/M and JEM, UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and NGOs, the mission will visit Abeche and N'djamena in Chad.
A statement issued by the AU Commission said the mission was expected to travel to Darfur Region, including El Fasher, Nyala and Al Geneina zones to identify suitable locations for camp sites of the Ceasefire Commission.
The mission would also seek relevant information from the parties with respect to military and security issues; verify the accuracy of information regarding the camps of internally displaced persons; and develop a logistics support plan for the deployment of the envisaged Ceasefire Commission.
Following the signing of the Humanitarian Ceasefire Agreement, the AU Peace and Security Council on 13 April 2004 requested AU Commission Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konare to take urgent steps, including the dispatch of a reconnaissance mission to Darfur.
In its efforts to deploy the mission, the AU Commission called a technical meeting from 19-20 April in Addis Ababa on the monitoring of the Darfur cease-fire pact.
The meeting brought together members of the international community that were involved in the N'djamena talks on the Darfur crisis.
On the basis of these consultations, the AU on 29 April submitted proposals to the Sudanese parties for the setting up the Cease-fire Commission.
However, the three parties to the conflict immediately asked for more time for internal consultations on the proposals.
About 100,000 have fled into Chad to escape the fighting between government troops and two armed groups that resorted to arms in February 2003.
UN statistics indicate that up to 700,000 others have been internally displaced.

08 may 2004 09:15:00

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