KHARTOUM, Sudan - Sudan has agreed to allow 3,500 African Union troops into war-ravaged western Darfur as a means of building confidence among civilians who, United Nations officials have repeatedly said, no longer trust their own government authorities. Among other things, the African Union monitors will be allowed to police the Sudanese police.
The agreement represents the biggest step taken by this government to comply with the demands of the U.N. Security Council. Sudan is already under biting international pressure, most notably the threat of sanctions, should it fail to take steps to restore security in Darfur.
The war in the west has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced nearly 1.5 million from their homes, mostly black Africans. It began early last year with a rebel uprising that demanded greater political and economic rights for the long-marginalized west. The Arab-led government cracked down hard, using its military and arming private Arab militias.
The United States has called it genocide. The U.N. Security Council, in a resolution passed in September, charged a commission of inquiry with determining whether the violence in Darfur met the criteria for genocide.
The government's decision comes as the Security Council prepares to review a report on Sudan's progress by the secretary-general's special representative on Sudan, Jan Pronk. The swift expansion of African Union troops and the broadening of their mandate has been among his key demands.
In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York yesterday, the Sudanese foreign minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail, said his government had asked the African Union to work with its security forces in Darfur "so that we will make sure that there is no violation of human rights, there is no killing, there is building of confidence."
"We need to expand their mandate and to give them more mandates, for protection, mandate for checking, mandate for investigating, and yes, they need such mandates," he added.
Adam Thiam, the spokesman for the chairman of the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa, said in a telephone interview last night that deployment would begin as soon as possible. Nigeria and Rwanda have committed the necessary number of troops, but logistical support such as trucks and helicopters remains an obstacle.
The broadened mandate of the African Union would include monitoring the Sudanese police but would fall significantly short of the authorization to protect civilians. That kind of mandate has not been discussed and is unlikely to be accepted by Sudan, U.N. officials have said.