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Sudan Rejects Peacekeepers During Darfur Talks

BY Admin  August 23, 2004 at 6:00 PM EDT

The proposal, put forward by Nigerian President and current A.U. Chairman Olusegun Obasanjo, called for 2,000 peacekeepers to enter Darfur, where an 18-month conflict between rebel forces and a government-backed militia known as the Janjaweed, has killed 50,000 people and forced 1.2 million more from their homes and into refugee camps.

The Sudanese official and chief negotiator Majzoub al-Khalifa Ahmad refused Obasanjo’s offer saying the government would disarm its own militias and rebel groups.

“The security role is the role of the government of Sudan and its security forces,” al-Khalifa Ahmad said, according to the Associated Press. “If there’s a need, it will be discussed.”

Abubakar Hamid Nour, the coordinator for the rebel group Justice and Equality Movement, dismissed al-Khalifa Ahmad’s statement.

“There is no way we can let our enemies disarm us,” he said, according to the AP. “They are still killing us and bombing us.”

The Sudanese government has been accused of arming the Janjaweed as part of a plan to wipe out rebel unrest in Darfur. The government denies current support of the group and has called them outlaws.

But promises by the government to disarm the Janjaweed have been largely unfulfilled. Monday’s peace talks come a week before an Aug. 30 deadline imposed by the United Nations Security Council for the Sudanese government to protect civilians and disarm forces or face sanctions.

The International Crisis Group, a multinational NGO monitoring the situation in Darfur, has criticized the Sudanese government for making a minimal effort to resolve the conflict, the AP reported. The government is “adept at saying and doing just enough to avoid a robust international response.”

In London, Alex de Wall, head of the London-based human rights group Justice Africa, criticized Obasanjo’s proposal at the peace talks as overly bold.

“At this stage it would have been better to have kept out any bold suggestions that simply invite rejection,” he said in an AP report.

The government of Rwanda already has sent 150 troops to Darfur to protect A.U. monitors observing the shaky cease-fire between the government and rebel groups. An additional 150 Nigerian troops are expected to arrive soon, the A.P. reported.

U.N. envoy in Darfur Jan Pronk has reported that while widespread killing has stopped in the region, some killing still continues.

“There is no mass killing going on in this country,” he told the BBC. “There is killing, but there is no reason to believe the government is behind those killings.”

The situation in Darfur is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations and many international aid groups working in the region. Both the United States and Britain have sent top level officials to observe the crisis and negotiate with government officials but have failed to find a resolution.