Monday, May 08, 2006

AU translator's lynching in Darfur underscores need for strengthened peacekeeping

There was a bit of optimism last week as the main warring parties in Darfur, western Sudan, signed a peace agreement. That optimism was tempered by the rejection of the deal by two smaller rebel groups. There is other reason for caution.

A few weeks ago, UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland was denied entry into Darfur, western Sudan. Presumably, the Sudanese regime didn't want him to see the effects of the genocide it continues to sponsor.

This weekend, they finally let Egeland into Darfur, after an avalanche of international criticism for their earlier refusal. Egeland called for the reinforcement of the present African Union mission in the region, ahead of a proposed deployment of UN troops. The Sudanese regime has vigorously resisted a UN force for western Sudan despite the presence of such peacekeepers in the south of the country.

Today, Egeland had to flee a riot at a refugee camp when a rumor started that one of his translators, who worked for the AU, was part of the Janjaweed militias who are perpetrating the genocide. Egeland escaped unharmed but the translator was killed.

In a tragic way, the slaying only reinforces Egeland's call for more troops and increased security for the region.

Egeland also praised 'the heroic efforts' of humanitarian relief workers in the region who are working under virtually impossible conditions and have often been targeted themselves by the militias.

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