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Last Updated: Monday, 13 August 2007, 12:38 GMT 13:38 UK
Analysis: Africa's Darfur bombshell
By Martin Plaut
BBC Africa analyst

The chairman of the African Union Commission, Alpha Oumar Konare, dropped something of a bombshell after holding talks with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

AU peacekeeper in Darfur
Darfur is the African Union's first peacekeeping mission
Speaking to the media, he insisted that the 26,000-strong hybrid United Nations-African Union force would be drawn entirely from Africa, and that it would be under African command.

The initial response to the statement was one of surprise.

The Americans, among others, had argued that Africa does not have enough trained soldiers to make up a credible and effective force.

And last week the UN issued a list of Asian countries it said had offered to send troops for the Darfur force, whose composition must be determined by the end of this month.

Challenge?

On the face of it, this contradicts UN Security Council resolution 1769, adopted on 31 July.

This authorised a UN peacekeeping force of 19,555 military personnel, together with about 6,000 police.

PROMISED PEACEKEEPERS
Map
7,000 - existing AU force
1,000 - pledged by Senegal
800 - pledged by Malawi
Other pledges:
Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia and Egypt
Indonesia, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh
26,000 - total planned
It stated clearly that the hybrid force would come under UN command and control.

"There will be unity of command and control which, in accordance with basic principles of peacekeeping, means a single chain of command... command and control structures and backstopping will be provided by the United Nations," it reads.

So is Mr Konare's statement a challenge to the authority of the UN?

Those close to the African Union argue it is not.

On the question of command for the mission, they point out that the hybrid force commander, Martin Agwai, was appointed by the African Union.

And they suggest that although Africa could easily provide 20,000 troops, it does not have the ability to pay the $2 billion a year price tag, or airlift them into position in Darfur.

So the idea that this will be a totally African force should be seen as an aspiration.

Rather, Mr Konare's statement should be seen as an attempt to re-assert Africa's authority on the continent and to re-assure the Sudanese leadership that they will not be over-run by foreign troops.

Puzzling

The Sudanese are fearful that some of their number might be arrested by UN forces, under a sealed warrant issued by the International Criminal Court, for crimes allegedly committed in Darfur.

African troops, led by an African commander, might be prevailed on not to carry out this exercise.

But in some ways the whole rumpus is a little puzzling.

The UN already has 10,108 total uniformed personnel, including 8,824 troops, 591 military observers, and 693 police patrolling South Sudan, as part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement reached between the authorities in Khartoum and rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement in January 2005.

And so far these UN troops have caused no difficulties for the Sudanese government.


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