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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 November, 2004, 21:54 GMT
Frustration of Darfur 'observer'
Commander Seth Appiah Mensah
Commander Seth Appiah Mensah of the African Union
An African observer in the Darfur region of Sudan has spoken about his frustration at having no power to intervene in the conflict.

Commander Seth Appiah Mensah told the BBC's Panorama programme that the remit he was working under was "highly restrictive" but added that he had no doubt that the Sudanese government was arming the Janjaweed militia.

The commander is one of just an initial 300 African Union troops sent to Sudan by the African Union in response to the growing crisis.

His role is not to keep the peace or to help the thousands of black Africans who have been killed in Darfur. It is to act as a protector for 120 unarmed observers who have been operating in the region.

These observers are in the country to check on reports of fighting, and take notes on ceasefire violations.


The government of Sudan forces and the militia work closely together in that area. It is difficult to distinguish who is who
Commander Seth Appiah Mensah, African Union

Sudan's government let the troops and the observers in after diplomatic pressure was applied - but on the basis that the soldiers did not act as peacekeepers.

The African Union has - however - recently agreed to increase its military force in Sudan's troubled Darfur region to more than 3,000.

Commander Appiah Mensah told the programme: "We do not have the capacity as at this time to go and act as a buffer force between the armed parties.

"At this level, what we do, we just respond to the complaint, investigate it, and submit our report. But we cannot go and stop the fighting, no.

"It's highly restrictive because we are not even allowed to look into issues like rape and other things.

Working closely

"Highly restrictive because it only gives us an ability to observe, verify and report."

The Ghanaian commander also said the Janjaweed in Darfur were getting their guns from the government, a claim always denied by the Sudanese government.

"The government of Sudan forces and the militia work closely together in that area," said Commander Appiah Mensah , "it is difficult to distinguish who is who.

"These weapons (used by the Janjaweed) are G3, you know, AK47 and all that. They are not traditional weapons that anybody can lay hands on.

"So if they are coordinating with the government they must be resourced by government, they must be supported by government."

Panorama: The new killing fields will be broadcast at 22:15GMT on Sunday, November 14 on BBC One

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The Janjaweed tactics
14 Nov 04 |  Panorama
Darfur in quotes
14 Nov 04 |  Panorama
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12 Nov 04 |  Panorama
Your comments
12 Nov 04 |  Panorama


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