December 29th, 2006 04:24 EST
Sudan: UN personnel arrive in ravaged Darfur region to support African Union force
An initial group of 25 uniformed United Nations personnel arrived today in Sudan’s Darfur region to support an African Union mission (AMIS) that has been working to monitor the strife-torn area, which is roughly the size of France.
The 13 military staff officers and 12 police officers in El Fasher were deployed as part of a phased approach agreed to by the Khartoum Government, which initially opposed any UN presence in Darfur but accepted a hybrid UN-AU force following intensive diplomatic efforts led by Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his envoy, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, who recently held talks in Khartoum with Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir.
Today, Mr. Annan’s Deputy Special Representative, Manuel Aranda Da Silva, along with the police and military officers, took part in an informal ceremony at the AMIS headquarters in El Fasher with government representatives in attendance.
The deployment brings the UN’s total police adviser presence in the Darfur to 21 and the total UNMIS uniformed presence in Darfur to 38. Thirty additional military staff officers currently in Khartoum will be deployed in the coming days.
Under the UN’s light support package for AMIS, the UN will eventually provide 105 military advisers, 33 police advisers and 48 civilian staff, as well as equipment.
The overall aim is to deploy a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force in Darfur, made up of 17,000 troops and 3,000 police officers, compared to AMIS’ current strength of just 7,000.
Yesterday, the Secretary-General pledged that the UN would move quickly to send in personnel, calling this “a way of testing the Government’s willingness to cooperate.”