(KAMPALA, March 13, 2006) The Darfur Consortium today cautioned that the African Union had set itself a formidable task in rejecting an early opportunity to transition towards an expanded the UN role in Darfur. On Friday the AU decided that it would continue to head up the international troop presence in Darfur, although it renewed its support “in principle” for a transition to a UN force in the long term. The mandate of the African Union mission in Sudan (AMIS) has been extended to September 2006.
“By electing to continue its lead role in Darfur the AU is asking the people of Darfur to renew to place their trust in a mission which, by its own admission, has not been able to protect them effectively to date,” said Dismas Nkunda, a spokesperson for the Consortium.
Despite some initial success in stabilizing the situation in Darfur, significant obstacles have prevented AMIS from fulfilling its mandate. In addition to logistic and technical challenges, lack of cooperation from the parties to the conflict, in particular from the Government of Sudan, has seriously hampered its work.
“It is vital that the African Union now sets out a new strategy for this phase of the mission, both political and operational,” said Mr. Nkunda. “Success or failure will be critical to the lives and livelihoods of millions of Darfurians.”
“Most importantly the African Union must show that it is ready to take proactive steps to protect civilians on the ground,” said Mr. Nkunda. In this regard, the Consortium welcomed the statement by the Council yesterday that it was determined to “take all necessary steps for the consistent, flexible, broad and robust interpretation” of its mandate “in order to ensure a more forceful protection of the civilian population.” These words must now be translated into action.