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Obasanjo warns of Darfur genocide, aid staff attacked By Tsegaye Tadesse

Posted by Tsegaye Tadesse on 2006/10/11 | Views: 508 |

Obasanjo warns of Darfur genocide, aid staff attacked By Tsegaye Tadesse


Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo warned of a possible genocide in Sudan's Darfur region on Tuesday, as attacks escalated on aid workers further hindering humanitarian access to 2.5 million in need.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo warned of a possible genocide in Sudan's Darfur region on Tuesday, as attacks escalated on aid workers further hindering humanitarian access to 2.5 million in need.

Aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres said on Tuesday four of its workers had been attacked, beaten and one international female member of staff sexually harassed in Darfur, the latest in an escalation of violence since an unpopular May peace deal.

"These attacks have become more and more frequent in recent months and have the effect of limiting humanitarian access," MSF France's deputy head of mission Marc Galinier said.

Cash-strapped African Union peacekeepers have been unable to stem the violence and are caught in a diplomatic tug-of-war between the international community who want a U.N. takeover of the peacekeeping mission and Khartoum which rejects U.N. forces.

"It is not in the interest of Sudan nor in the interest of Africa nor indeed in the interest of the world for us all to stand by and see genocide being developed in Darfur," Obasanjo, said in a speech at the AU's headquarters in Addis Ababa.

The AU's top diplomat until January 2006, Obasanjo's comments are likely to anger Khartoum, which rejects the term genocide, used mainly by Washington to describe the rape, murder and pillage in Darfur, which experts estimate may have killed 200,000 over the past 3-1/2 years.

The May accord, signed by only one of three rebel negotiating factions, has been rejected by tens of thousands of Darfuris and some of the non-signatory rebels formed a new alliance and renewed hostilities with the government.

Senegal's foreign minister Cheikh Tidane Gadio said three African heads of state, including Obasanjo, were preparing a mission to Sudan to try to persuade it to accept U.N. peacekeepers. He gave no date for the mission, which will include the presidents of Senegal and Gabon.

NO FOREIGNERS

Nigeria is the largest troop contributing nation to the African force. "If the need arises and if the AU has to secure more troops and if the resources are found, Nigeria will surely consider giving more troops to the AU," Obasanjo added. Other contributors include Rwanda, Senegal, Egypt and South Africa.

The AU mission, dependent on Western government donations, has had difficulty even paying salaries and has on occasion been accused of watching as civilians are attacked.

Mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003 accusing central government of neglect. Khartoum then armed mostly-Arab militias to quell the rebellion. Those militia now stand accused of a campaign of atrocities against civilians.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is investigating possible war crimes in the remote west of Sudan. Critics say Khartoum fears U.N. troops would be used to arrest officials likely to be indicted by the ICC.

The first task of any U.N. mission would be to ensure the safety of the around 14,000 aid workers taking part in the world's largest humanitarian operation in Darfur.

"They (the attackers) said we don't want any foreigners here," Galinier told Reuters. The men wore masks and were armed. He said MSF France had limited its movement in the area since the attack on September 11. A dozen aid workers have been killed in Darfur since May.

The World Food Programme said more coordination between humanitarian agencies and U.N. organizations in Darfur had led to access to more than 158,000 war victims in West Darfur. The area had previously been off limits because of banditry, insurgents from neighboring Chad and other militia attacks.

But the Rome-based U.N. food agency said 224,000 were still out of reach and of those, 139,000 had received no food aid for four consecutive months.

(Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Pascal Fletcher in Dakar)

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.