Rwanda president 'ringing an alarm bell' on Darfur

By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK, May 2 (Reuters) - African Union troops struggling to combat violence in Sudan's Darfur region are only putting less than a third of their capacity to good use due to a lack resources, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said on Wednesday.

In an interview with Reuters, Kagame expressed frustration at the four-year-old conflict and said he was "ringing an alarm bell" for the world by threatening to withdraw Rwanda's 2,000 peacekeepers from the African Union force of some 7,000 troops in Darfur.

"What is the purpose of having them there just to sit in the sun and not do what they are expected to do, to support the people in Darfur that are suffering," Kagame said after giving a surprise lecture to a history class at Baruch College in New York City as part of a mtvU's "Stand-In" television program.

"It is ringing an alarm bell, things are not good and the international community needs to act and if not there is no purpose to us being there," said Kagame, who has been president of the genocide-scarred Rwanda since 2000.

He would not set a deadline for a possible pullout of Rwanda's troops from Darfur, which he has been threatening since March.

Kagame led the Rwandan Patriotic Front, a mostly ethnic Tutsi rebel group that toppled the Hutu regime in Rwanda that was largely responsible for the country's 1994 genocide in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered.

At least 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2.3 million made homeless in the Darfur conflict among African rebel groups, the Arab-dominated government and militia who back. The United States calls it a genocide.

African Union troops were sent to the western Sudanese region in 2004.

"We put the persons on the ground, the persons are there, but their capacities are not being fully realized," Kagame said. "Probably 30 percent of their capacities are being put to good use, the other 70 percent would be realized if they are given the right tools at the right time to be able to carry out their work. This has not happened."

The U.N. Security Council last year adopted a resolution to deploy a "hybrid" U.N.-African Union force of more than 20,000 in Darfur, but Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has only agreed to the deployment of 3,000 U.N. police and military personnel to aid the African Union force.

Kagame said Khartoum was not solely to blame for the delay in reinforcements and resources for the force.

"There are three components -- the U.N. the AU and the government of Sudan. These three are to blame for the situation," he said. "They need to get together and find a solution."


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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