Khartoum in about-turn on AU troops, but DA worried about peacekeeping motives
The Democratic Alliance has called on the South African government to use its influence to convince Sudan to allow the UN to deploy a peacekeeping force in Darfur.
The DA's concern was triggered by a new wave of warfare that has killed scores of civilians.
Sudan did an about-turn yesterday by indicating it was willing to allow African Union troops to remain in Darfur, but only if their AU mandate was extended beyond September 30 - and not as part of a United Nations force.
Sudan raised alarms that its turbulent west could descend into full-blown war after a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Sunday that AU troops monitoring a shaky ceasefire must leave when their mandate expires.
Presidential adviser Mustafa Osman Ismail had said the government was responding to the AU's stated position that it could not sustain its 7 000 troops in Darfur beyond its mandate.
"The AU has refused to extend its mandate beyond Septem- ber 30. If they don't want to extend their mandate, they have to go," he said.
One African diplomat said the government had softened its position overnight because they realised that expelling the AU would end all implementation of an AU-brokered May peace deal.
In the past week, the Sudanese government has flown hundreds of troops into Darfur and bombed numerous villages.
"It appears that Khartoum would like all peacekeepers out of Darfur so that it can mount an unhindered attack on areas where rebels are still operating," said Democratic Alliance MP Douglas Gibson.
The move by Khartoum comes after a UN Security Council resolution calling for the handover of peacekeeping duties to a 17 300-strong UN force, with up to 3 000 additional police members.
"The government should immediately use the respect it enjoys to lobby Khartoum to accept the UN resolution to send troops to the area," said Gibson.
He called on the AU to explore public condemnation of Khartoum or sanctions.
The US has led the push for Khartoum to accept the handover, with the AU stepping up its efforts at ensuring Sudan's compliance.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday criticised the US and British-backed resolution, saying it was drawn up without proper consultations with the Khartoum government, which has argued that the UN mandate's goal was "regime change".
Khartoum has called for patience in resolving the Darfur crisis, constantly warning foreign countries of its sovereignty.
It has been largely supported by the Arab League and China, which is the largest foreign investor in Sudan and holds a seat on the UN Security Council.
The South African Department of Foreign Affairs had no comment at the time of going to press.
By Beauregard Tromp The Star 07/09/06