South African govt urged to defuse Darfur crisis

Cape Town- South Africa (PANA) -- South Africa's official opposition, the Democratic Alliance on Tuesday blamed President Thabo Mbeki's government of continuing to remain "deafeningly silent" on the rapidly deteriorating situation in west Sudan's Darfur region.
According to the United Nations, the world's worst humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Darfur, where aid agencies estimate that a conflict between two rebel groups and Arab militiamen (Janjaweed_ has killed at least 30,000 people and displaced more than one million others.
The DA said not only has Pretoria failed to condemn in the strongest possible terms the violence perpetrated by the Sudanese government in Darfur, it has also at times sought to protect Khartoum from international scrutiny and sanction.
"The African Union has a critical role to play in dealing with the Dafur crisis.
Whilst the AU is to be commended for putting together a force of 300 troops to protect its 60 cease-fire observers in Sudan, this is simply not enough.
"The AU has left it to the US Congress and the United Nations to take the lead on this issue; both of these institutions have threatened the use of international action, with the US Congress going as far as to declare the atrocities in Darfur to be genocide," said DA spokesman Joe Seremane.
He said the fact that there are now US special forces on the ground in Sudan in pursuit of alleged al-Qaeda operatives, as well as French troops amassing on the Sudan/Chad border reveals the extent to which the AU is lagging behind in dealing with this conflict.
"The Sudanese situation is a great challenge to the African Union to defuse and control the conflict and prevent further loss of life.
Also cause for great concern is the fact that the Sudanese government has made a series of militant statements indicating that it interprets the recent UN resolution to withdraw militants from Darfur as a declaration of war.
"The Sudanese government has also let it be known that it rejects in principle the presence of AU troops in Sudan," Seremane said.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands said on Tuesday it would fund a mission to fly 360 African Union troops to the Darfur region this month to protect observers monitoring a cease-fire between rebels and the Khartoum government.
Dutch development minister Agnes van Ardenne has agreed to an AU request to pay for a contingent of Rwandan and Nigerian soldiers to be flown into the troubled region, the Dutch foreign ministry said.

03 august 2004 15:15:00

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