(KHARTOUM, January 21, 2006): “The Darfur peace process will be jeopardized if African leaders elect a President for the African Union (AU) who is a party to the conflict,” Alioune Tine, Secretary General of the Senegalese non-governmental organization (NGO) RADDHO and member of the Darfur Consortium, a coalition of over forty African based NGOs, said today in Khartoum as the AU summit got underway. “It creates a clear conflict of interest.”
Speaking today in Khartoum Mr. Tine urged: “On a continent riven by conflict we need an AU President who can play an incontestably legitimate leadership role in dealing with the challenges of war in Africa. The people of Darfur in particular need an AU President capable of taking a strong and independent stand on behalf of peace.”
Mr. Tine pointed out that there was a danger that passing the AU Presidency to Sudan at this critical time could undermine efforts to bring an end to the conflict. “The AU has been the leading mediator in the crisis in Darfur on behalf of the international community, not only at the level of political negotiation, but also through sending troops to Darfur to monitor the ceasefire and provide a measure of protections to civilians through the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS)). It must be permitted to continue in that role.”
In particular, he said, the hard work which AMIS had done in creating pockets of security for the people of Darfur should not be undermined. “There have been credible allegations from the AU mission side that Sudanese troops and military vehicles as well as those of allied Janjaweed militiamen have been disguised as AU peacekeepers during offensive operations. If Sudan is seen to be leading the AU effort as President this may erode even further the fragile confidence which exists in the AMIS mission among the Darfur population—and at a time when security and humanitarian access are ever more under fire.”
“The President of the AU must be in a position to play a strong and independent mediation role in dealing with conflicts on the continent,” Mr. Tine said. “Escalating tensions between Sudan and Chad – and indeed Ethiopia and Eritrea – mean that it would not be practical to have these States lead the AU’s peace making efforts at this critical time.” Mr. Tine pointed out that the spokesperson for Sudan’s Foreign Minister had today himself welcomed the work of the AU in helping to mediate discussions between Chad and Sudan. The continuing independence, authority and credibility of the African Union institutions are essential to this work.
Saying that the Inter-Sudanese Peace Talks on Darfur were at a very delicate point, Mr. Tine also warned that the non-State parties to the talks may consider the AU role comprised if the AU Presidency passes to Sudan as one of the belligerent parties to the conflict. He added that the Consortium had written to African leaders to express these concerns.