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U.N. pledges funds for African troops in Darfur

Chad’s government declared a state of emergency on Monday in the capital N’Djamena and some eastern areas, where raiders on horseback have killed hundreds of villagers in ethnic attacks in recent weeks.
/ Source: news services

The United Nations said Monday it has pledged about $77 million in personnel and equipment to help the overwhelmed African Union force in Darfur as Sudan blocks the world body from sending its own peacekeepers to the war-torn region.

The package includes military and police advisers, communications equipment and tools like night-vision goggles, said Hedi Annabi, the U.N. assistant secretary general for peacekeeping operations. It will be given to the African Union as soon as possible.

The aid has been offered because of Sudan’s refusal to allow a U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur, Annabi told reporters.

“That (willingness) is not there today (for a United Nations peacekeeping force), so in the meantime we are looking at ways in which we can move forward by reinforcing (the African Union Mission in Sudan) to enable it to go on with its tasks effectively,” Annabi said.

The U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York said the Sudanese government initially agreed to allow the United Nations to provide the AU troops with a support package worth about $22 million. Annabi was able to secure the government’s agreement to allow the rest of the $77 million aid package to go through in the last few days.

Annabi, who recently visited Sudan, said he will soon start discussions on another support package for the AU force, but he did not say how much that would be worth.

Annabi spoke after a meeting of African Union, U.N. and Sudanese officials to discuss the deteriorating situation in Darfur with the AU’s mandate due to expire on Dec. 31.

The U.N. Security Council voted in August to send more than 20,000 peacekeepers to Darfur to replace the ill-equipped and underfunded African Union force, but Sudan has rejected this.

The African Union currently has 7,000 troops in the violence-plagued region to monitor a shaky cease-fire signed earlier this year by the government and one rebel faction.

40 new deaths
The announcement came as the U.N. reported nearly 40 civilian deaths in the last few days in attacks in Darfur by Arab militiamen — some of whom were backed by Sudanese military vehicles.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the African Union also have invited representatives from the five permanent members of the Security Council, several African countries, the League of Arab States and the European Union to discuss the deteriorating situation in Darfur, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Dujarric said Annan would attend the meeting Thursday in Ethiopia, as would representatives from Sudan’s government.

The African Union’s peace and security commissioner Said Djinnit said the organization’s peacekeeping mission needed even more donor support. Some pledged millions a few months ago, but little has been received, he said.

“This is a matter of urgency,” he said. “This ad hoc way of funding the mission is unsustainable.”

The African Union force has been unable to curb violence in Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced since the conflict began in February 2003, when ethnic African tribesmen took up arms against the Arab-led government in Khartoum.

U.N. investigators and rights groups have blamed the worst atrocities on the janjaweed, a pro-government militia that is widely accused of killing villagers and destroying their homes. The government denies supporting the militia.

Chad declares state of emergency
Chad’s government declared a state of emergency on Monday in the capital N’Djamena and some eastern areas, where raiders on horseback have killed hundreds of villagers in ethnic attacks in recent weeks.

The measure included the appointment of special ministers with far-reaching powers for the affected regions and a tightening of media censorship.

President Idriss Deby’s government already faces armed insurgency from the east, which has been caught up in spillover violence from neighboring Sudan’s conflict-torn Darfur region.

The government has accused Sudanese Arab militia of provoking clashes between Arab and non-Arab Chadians through frequent raids over Chad’s eastern border with Darfur.

“This state of emergency aims to halt the serious attacks on public order due to the rampant insecurity in these regions,” Communications Minister Hourmadji Moussa Doumgor said after a special cabinet meeting.

As well as areas affected by the latest violence, Doumgor said the state of emergency was also being imposed as a preventive measure in large swathes of northern and southern Chad and in the capital N’Djamena, in western Chad, hundreds of miles from the eastern ethnic clashes.

Relative quiet gives way to violence
The Chadian capital has escaped much of the violence since the conflict in neighboring Darfur broke out in 2003 between rebels from non-Arab tribes and Sudanese government troops allied to roving mounted Arab militia known as Janjaweed.

But Chadian rebels bent on toppling Deby launched a lightning attack on N’Djamena in April, in which several hundred people were killed before the army regained control. Deby accuses Sudan of backing the rebels. Khartoum denies this.

“To improve coordination of political and security action in the regions under state of emergency, the cabinet has decided to appoint resident ministers invested with all resources and powers of action,” Doumgor said.

He accused unnamed media of destabilizing Chad through disinformation, apologizing for the armed rebellion and passing intelligence to the enemy.

“The cabinet decided to restore advance censorship for private newspapers and prohibit radio stations from discussing matters which could threaten public order, national unity, territorial integrity or respect for the institutions of the republic,” he said.

Peacekeepers sought
The state of emergency was imposed along much of Chad’s southern border with Central African Republic, where insurgents, believed to include some Chadian fighters, have seized towns in recent weeks.

Both Chad and Central African Republic have called for the deployment of international peacekeepers to secure their borders. But Sudan’s government refuses to permit a robust United Nations peacekeeping force to relieve an over-stretched African Union contingent in Darfur.

Chad, a former French colony, stretches from forest in the south to Saharan mountains in the north.

Long one of the world’s poorest and most corrupt countries, it has begun pumping oil in the past few years from oil fields in the south via an export pipeline built through neighboring Cameroon with backing from the World Bank.