AU protection force lands Sunday in Darfur

Addis Ababa- Ethiopia (PANA) -- The first contingent of the African Union (AU) protection force lands Sunday in the strife-torn Darfur region of western Sudan, a senior official of the AU Conflict Management Centre (CMC) announced here Saturday.
CMC's acting director, Elghassim Wane, said the aicraft carrying a contingent of 139 Rwandan military personnel would land at El Fashir Sunday morning from Khartoum.
According to the official, four planes hired by the AU Saturday delivered equipment and foodstuff for the force at El Fashir airport.
The equipment included armoured personnel carriers, ammunition and light armaments.
Wane told journalists that the protection force would be detailed to five sectors of the Ceasefire Commission within the Darfur region and to another sector of Abeche in neighbouring Chad.
The five sectors in Darfur include the logistics base and sector headquarters at El Fashir.
The others are Nyala, Al Geneina, Kabkabiyah and Tine.
"In each of the sectors we have observers on the ground and right now they are working without protection," Wane said.
The second contingent of the protection force, comprising 152 personnel, is due in Darfur on 25 August 2004 from Nigeria.
Thousands of Darfur residents have fled to Chad as a result of the misery caused by the fighting between the government-backed 'Janjaweed' militias and the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).
"We have started the process for the deployment of the protection force in line with the agreement signed with the Sudanese parties on 28 May 2004 in Addis Ababa," Wane said.
Wane said the presence of AU observers already in the region served to give the local population some confidence, in addition to investigating allegations of the cease-fire violation by either the Sudanese government troops or the armed rebel groups.
According to the CMC official, the observers had so far completed eight investigations but he could not divulge their findings.
Presently, there are 123 AU military observers in the region provided by Ghana, Republic of Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal and South Africa.
The United Nations has provided a small team of experts to assist the AU in enhancing the effectiveness of the observers.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands has offered to meet costs Incurred by the AU in transporting equipment and personnel of the protection force.

14 august 2004 14:52:00

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