Special Envoy of the African Union (AU) to Darfur Salem Ahmed Salem Sunday expressed his concern over the size and equipment of a UN-AU hybrid peacekeeping operation in the conflict-torn western Sudanese region of Darfur.
In a press statement issued upon his arrival in Khartoum, Salem said that although the hybrid operation, which is well-known as the UN-AU Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), was launched, the number of its troops did not reach the size which the UN and AU had planned.
"Although UNAMID was launched, it is not completely in place," he said, adding that many countries in Africa and elsewhere were ready to provide troops to join the hybrid peacekeeping force.
Turning to the equipment of the UNAMID, Salem said one of the demands and requirements was to try and get transportation means.
There was still discussions about the possibility of getting helicopters "with all the good will that has been expressed and demonstrated by the international community," the AU envoy added.
Analysts believe that helicopters are essential for the hybrid force to carry out its mission in the region of France's scale.
The UN and AU have noted that critical gaps still remained in the hybrid force as no pledges had been received so far for ground and transportation units and aviation assets.
The UN-AU hybrid force took over on Dec. 31, 2007 the peacekeeping authorities in Darfur from the underfunded AU peacekeeping force which had been deployed there in 2004 to monitor a fragile ceasefire between the conflicting parties.
On July 31, 2007, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1769, authorizing the deployment the hybrid force including some 20,000 troops and more than 6,000 police and civilian staff.
Until now, there are only some 9,000 uniformed personnel on the ground, including 7,000 troops and 1,200 police who had been serving with the AU force.
(Xinhua News Agency January 14, 2008)