Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Date: 11 Oct 2005
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
ADDIS ABABA, 11 October (IRIN) - The African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council has decided that the issue of the "deteriorating security situation" in the western Sudanese region of Darfur be refered to the UN Security Council.
The decision, taken at the end of an emergency meeting on Monday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, came after the killing and kidnapping of AU peacekeepers in the region.
Togolese ambassador Esaw Koffi told journalists the AU unreservedly condemned the weekend violence against its personnel.
The AU also asked the Sudanese government to process the paperwork for the delivery of 105 armoured personnel carriers (APCs) "necessary for the protection of our personnel" in Darfur, which were currently sitting in Dakar, Senegal, Koffi said.
"These APCs would probably have avoided these deaths. The AU forces should be enabled to protect themselves and the others," he added.
The AU special representative to Darfur, Baba Gana Kingibe, told reporters in Addis Ababa the 53-nation bloc was "deeply concerned" about the violence, which he said had been increasing since August.
"The international community should be very alarmed by these events because the situation is getting out of hand and we are sliding backwards," he said ahead of the crunch meeting.
"The situation is spiralling. We have a highly aggravated, deteriorating security situation. We have had some very terrible tragedies, but this is one of the lowest points - if not the lowest - that we have had," he added.
Two Nigerian peacekeepers and two contractors were killed on Saturday after rebels opened fire on them, while another soldier died from his injuries on Sunday. Three other troops were wounded in the gun battle.
It was the first time the AU had suffered fatalities in the region, where it has over 6,200 troops monitoring a fragile ceasefire between rebels and government-backed militias.
Fighting in Darfur began when the rebels took up arms in February 2003, complaining of discrimination and oppression of the western region by the Sudanese government. The government is accused of unleashing militia - known as the Janjawid - on civilians in an attempt to fight the rebellion.
The latest killings happened as the warring parties were in the midst of a sixth round of stop-start peace talks in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, on 15 September. The AU called on all sides to abide by a ceasefire agreement established to end the violence.
On Sunday, 38 African Union peacekeepers were seized in a separate incident, including a 20-strong rescue team sent in to secure their release.
The hostages included military observers, civilian police and an official from one of Darfur's two main rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement. However, all the hostages had been freed by Monday evening.
The Sudanese government denied on Tuesday that the security situation in Darfur had deteriorated. It described the AU statement as "erratic and hasty" and said Kingibe had violated diplomatic norms and rules of procedure.
"He is not in position to give moral lessons to a founding member of the African Union or to judge, without verification, whether the government of the Sudan is acting in good faith or respecting its commitments," a statement issued from the embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, said.
"All the allegations in the form of findings which Ambassador Kingibe has pronounced require proof, especially those relating to the use of aircrafts and what he described as the unethical practice of the Sudanese Army of using the same colours of the African Union Forces by way of camouflage in the recent attacks on Tawila," it added.