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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 February 2008, 14:46 GMT
Peacekeeping head in Darfur plea
By Mary Harper
BBC Africa editor

A Unamid police advisor in a Darfur camp for internally displaced people, 12 January 2008
Only around a third of Unamid's pledged 26,000 troops are in Darfur
More troops must be deployed in west Darfur, even if they don't have their full equipment, the Sudanese area's peacekeeping force commander has said.

The priority now was more troops on the ground, said Balla Keita, a commander of the United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur (Unamid).

This, he said, would give local people confidence they were being protected.

Unamid took over from the struggling AU force late last year, but so far has only a third of the manpower needed.

Balla Keita said it would be better to deploy troops quickly than to wait any longer.

The United Nations needed to be more flexible on standards, he added.

Over-stretched troops

Senegal, for example, has pledged more troops for Darfur, but cannot deploy until it has armoured personnel carriers, which will take another six months to arrive.

Darfur map

Balla Keita said the shortage of peacekeepers in west Darfur meant his troops worked seven days a week, sometimes on both day and night patrol.

With only 9,000 of the 26,000 Unamid peacekeepers deployed, Balla Keita has reason to be concerned that the people of Darfur will lose faith in the mission.

West Darfur is considered the war-torn Sudanese region's most volatile area.

An attack last week by the Sudanese government and Arab Janjaweed militia left dozens dead and 12,000 fleeing across the border into neighbouring Chad, the UN said.

Chad's Prime Minister Nouradine Delwa Kassire Koumakoye has said his country, which is currently hosting some 200,000 Sudanese refugees, cannot absorb any more.

Some 2.5 million people have fled their homes in Darfur's five-year conflict, which has killed at least 200,000.

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