The UN-African Union peacekeeping force proposed for Sudan’s Darfur region will take most of 2008 to deploy fully, the UN’s head of peacekeeping has said.

Jean-Marie Guehenno said not enough troops had been contributed to the force. Only 9,000 of 26,000 planned troops have been deployed so far. It is the first time the UN has said there could be such a long delay. About 200,000 people have been killed and two million displaced in five years of conflict in the western province.

‘Positive’ talks
The mission – United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur (Unamid) – has been delayed by obstacles imposed by the Sudanese government, including restrictions on the force’s communications and a ban on night flights. Khartoum has also rejected some non-African troop contingents. “Some of the forces which we have planned to deploy we couldn’t,” said Mr Guehenno.

The force also lacks crucial equipment, such as the helicopters necessary for it to move around the arid region the size of France. But Mr Guehenno said talks with the government on the conditions for the peacekeepers’ operations had been “positive” so far. BBC World Service Africa Editor Mary Harper says that with the expected delays, there is little prospect of any meaningful security returning to Darfur.

Last week, human rights group Amnesty International called on Sudan to stop obstructing the deployment of the joint UN-African Union force, which took over from an African Union deployment on 31 December. The group said security was deteriorating, most of the camps for displaced people were awash with weapons, and young Darfuris were increasingly angry and frustrated. The five years of fighting has between Sudan’s government, pro-government Arab militias and rebel groups. The government denies links to the Janjaweed militia, which is accused of trying to “cleanse” black Africans from large swathes of territory.

(Source: BBC News)

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