(Brussels, June 9, 2005) -- NATO and the European Union are delaying protection for civilians in Darfur as they quarrel over who should take the lead in coordinating the airlift of African Union troops to the troubled western region of Sudan, Human Rights Watch said today.
In Brussels today, NATO defense ministers will meet to discuss current and planned operations in Sudan and elsewhere.
"The priorities are profoundly wrong if NATO and the EU let their turf battle come before protecting the lives of civilians," said Peter Takirambudde, Human Rights Watch's Africa director. "NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels and EU officials should work together to speed the airlift of African Union troops to Darfur."
The European Union, the United States, Canada, Britain and others agreed on May 26 at a pledging conference in Addis Ababa to contribute an additional US$300 million in cash and kind to provide logistics, communications and other support for the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS). Current plans are to increase the 2,300 AMIS forces in Darfur to 7,700 before the end of September.
Although several African battalions are reportedly ready to be deployed to Darfur, NATO and members of the European Union have disagreed over which organization should coordinate the airlift for the troops from Rwanda, South Africa, Nigeria and Senegal.
These troops would be part of an African Union effort to provide increased protection to the more than two million civilians in Darfur who continue to be at risk of attacks by government-backed militias known as Janjaweed. Although the Security Council demanded in July 2004 that the Sudanese government disarm and disband the Janjaweed, the government has taken no meaningful steps to rein in these counterinsurgency forces.
"We are grateful that the EU and NATO have taken the situation in Darfur to heart and are willing to participate in this critical airlift," said Takirambudde. "Civilians in Darfur will be even more grateful when the African Union troops are deployed, regardless of who coordinates the operation."
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