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UN's Ban, U.S. push to add Darfur peacekeepers – and soon

The secretary-general says the situation in Sudan's violence-torn province 'remains grim.'

By Staff writer / April 9, 2008



Washington

Eight months after the United Nations Security Council authorized sending a peacekeeping force to Darfur, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon is warning that security and humanitarian conditions in the violence-torn western province of Sudan are going from bad to worse.

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Urgent efforts are needed to further safeguard the population, improve access to emergency food supplies, and increase the airborne mobility of peacekeepers and humanitarian workers, say some Africa and aid experts. Without them, they warn, a new disaster could occur this summer when annual rains arrive.

Worldwide protest campaigns aim to pressure the international community to take action on Darfur, But they have yielded mixed results, at best, in two key objectives: building the UN peacekeeping force and enlisting China to strong-arm Sudan, with which it has close commercial ties, to cooperate more fully on Darfur.

Noting that it has been four years since the Security Council took up Darfur, Secretary-General Ban said in a recent statement that "the situation remains grim today, as then, if not worse."

According to Ban, some 15,000 humanitarian workers in the province are "keeping widespread mortality in Darfur below emergency thresholds." His spokeswoman on Darfur, Marie Okabe, says those workers are "having a really, really hard time" and face the same deteriorating conditions as the population.

Placing the number of internally displaced people in Darfur at 2.45 million and growing "at a rate of 1,000 per day," Ban said there is "no accountability, or end, in sight" for violence that targets women and girls in particular.

The peacekeeping mission approved last summer is to be a hybrid force of as many as 26,000 UN and African Union military personnel and civilian police. So far, 9,000 troops have been deployed to Darfur. The Sudanese government of President Omar al-Bashir has resisted plans for some of the peacekeepers to come from outside Africa, but Ban says the government has given the green light to troops from Nepal and Thailand.

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