AU chief appeals to all sides in Darfur conflict
( AFP ) - African Union chief Alpha Omar Konare launched an appeal Monday to all those involved in the Darfur conflict to help the deployment of a new hybrid AU-UN force as he visited the ravaged region.
A week before the 7,000 AU peacekeepers are to be incorporated into the bolstered 26,000 strong force, AU commission president Konare appealed to Darfur rebels to sign up for a ceasefire.
"The Sudanese government has decreed a ceasefire and we would like all the rebel movement to do the same so that we can see if the government is sincere," he told journalists.
"Let's be honest, there are lots of uncontrolled actions and if they (rebels) come to the negotiating table it will be essential for peace in Darfur."
Konare was visiting Darfur's main city of Al-Fasher, where the new force known as UNAMID will be headquartered, ahead of the handover by the African mission, known as AMIS, on January 1.
"This is not the end (of AMIS) but the beginning of the new phase of the hybrid force," Konare said while reviewing troops.
He called on the Khartoum government to help with the logistics of the operation following accusations they were stalling the deployment but also said that other countries taking part must supply promised equipment, in particular helicopters.
Konare also suggested the two billion dollars currently being spent on the peacekeeping force could be better spent on infrastructure in Darfur such as schools and hospitals.
The conflict in Darfur has left at least 200,000 people dead and displaced more than two million, according to UN figures.
It erupted in February 2003 when ethnic minority rebels rose up against Khartoum to demand an end to the political and economic marginalisation.
Konare was later headed to Khartoum where he was due to meet Sudanese officials including President Omar al-Beshir.