U.N. Security Council on 6-nation African trip to promote peace
Edith M. Lederer
NAIROBI, Kenya — The U.N. Security Council arrived Sunday night in Nairobi at the start of a six-country trip across Africa to promote peace in Darfur, Somalia and eastern Congo, and to try to prevent a new civil war between Sudan’s government and southern rebels.
During their nine days on the continent, council diplomats will meet many of the key players in African hotspots and talk to some of the millions of people displaced by fighting in eastern Congo and by the five-year conflict in Darfur that has spilled into neighboring Chad.
The U.N.’s most powerful body, responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security, will also be in Congo encouraging its fragile democracy as the country heads toward next year’s local elections, and in Ivory Coast, which recently emerged from civil war and holds presidential elections on Nov. 30.
The council’s tour includes stops in Kenya, Djibouti, Sudan, Chad, Congo and Ivory Coast.
Britain’s U.N. Ambassador John Sawers said that as the council considers the conflict in Darfur, he expects it to pay as much attention to preserving the fragile 2005 north-south peace agreement, which ended Sudan’s 21-year civil war that claimed over 2 million lives.
The agreement has been strained by fighting in May in the disputed oil-rich region of Abyei, just north of the disputed boundary with southern Sudan. The week of clashes between northern government soldiers and former southern rebels laid waste to the town of Abyei and led almost 90,000 people to flee their homes. At least 22 soldiers were killed.
The Security Council will be talking to Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir and his one-time military rival, First Vice President Salva Kiir, who is also the leader of southern Sudan, “about the recent problems in Abyei and what is needed to keep the comprehensive peace agreement on track,” Sawers said.
“We’ll obviously be urging all the parties to end the violence, engage constructively in Darfur — in the peace process there and in the peacekeeping,” he said.
The joint United Nations-African Union force that took over peacekeeping in Darfur in January still has only 9,000 of the 26,000 authorized troops on the ground and remains in need of helicopters, trucks and logistical support despite months of U.N. appeals.
The U.N.-AU force “is slowly building up its capability — too slowly,” Sawers said. “It’s able to increase its level of patrolling, but not sufficient to create a peace. Its mandate is not to impose a peace, it’s to keep a peace. The peace isn’t there.”
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