Sudan will not be 'recolonised'

Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir voiced strong opposition to the deployment of Western troops in war-torn Darfur, vowing his country would not be “recolonised”, state media reported on Tuesday.

“I swear that there will not be any international military intervention in Darfur as long as I am in power,” al-Beshir was quoted as telling a meeting of his ruling National Congress late on Monday.

“Sudan, which was the first country south of the Sahara to gain independence, cannot now be the first country to be recolonised,” he said.

The United Nations wants to replace an embattled and under-equipped contingent of African troops in the western region of Darfur with its own peacekeepers in a bid to shore up a fragile peace deal.

Khartoum has not completely ruled out a UN takeover, but has repeatedly voiced its opposition to any deployment without its prior consent and accused Western powers of challenging Sudan’s sovereignty.

Since the war broke out in the vast western region more than three years ago, the combined effect of fighting and a dire humanitarian crisis has left up to 300 000 people dead and more than two million displaced.

Khartoum stands accused of genocide by Washington over its brutal repression of the Darfur uprising and has come under intense international pressure.

The Sudanese government has shown more readiness to consider increased UN involvement in Darfur since the peace agreement was signed with the main rebel faction last month in Abuja.

Al-Beshir urged the other rebel factions “to jump on the peace bandwagon”.

A delegation from the faction of the rebel Sudanese Liberation Movement (SLM) that signed the Darfur deal arrived in Khartoum on Sunday to discuss implementation of the agreement.

But cracks have appeared in the SLM faction that signed the agreement, while the rival wing—drawn mainly from Darfur’s largest ethnic group, the Fur—and the Islamist-leaning Justice and Equality Movement have yet to fully endorse the deal.

Clashes between government-backed forces and rebels in Darfur have receded since the agreement but rebel infighting has been on the rise, hampering relief efforts, the UN said in a briefing on Monday.

“In the last three months we have had deterioration in getting access in Darfur,” humanitarian coordinator Manuel Da Silva told reporters.

“There are at least 250 000 people we cannot reach. They are mainly in western Darfur, but they are also in north Darfur. Reasons for the lack of access are mainly due to infighting,” he said.

In compliance with the agreement, Khartoum is expected to produce a plan for disarming its proxy Janjaweed militias by Thursday.

A joint delegation of senior officials from the UN and the African Union has been holding consultations with the government for almost two weeks in a bid to soften Khartoum’s stance on a UN deployment and bolster the peace agreement.

South African President Thabo Mbeki arrived in Khartoum on Tuesday for a one-day visit aimed at pushing for Khartoum’s acceptance of the UN plan.

AU chairperson Alpha Oumar Konare is also expected to arrive on Tuesday in Sudan for a three-day visit during which he will travel to Darfur to assess implementation of the peace agreement.—AFP

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