Skip to comments.Fighting In Darfur 'Threatens 3M Lives'
Posted on 09/06/2006 6:25:10 PM PDT by blam
Fighting in Darfur 'threatens 3m lives'
By David Blair, Africa Correspondent
Three million lives will be at risk in Sudan's war-torn region of Darfur if renewed fighting sabotages the international relief effort, Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, said yesterday.
Kofi Annan says that the imminent withdrawal of the African Union soldiers puts the international relief operation in jeopardy
The warning came as the African Union, an alliance of 53 countries on the continent, confirmed it will withdraw its mission from the area.
Sudan's regime has told the union to remove its 5,000 soldiers and 2,000 civilian staff when their mandate expires at the end of this month. President Omar al-Bashir has also rejected a UN resolution calling for a peacekeeping force in Darfur.
Instead, Mr Bashir has launched an offensive against black African rebels involving tens of thousands of troops.
Mr Annan stressed the scale of the international aid operation now under way in Darfur.
At least 1.8 million people live in hundreds of squalid refugee camps dotted across the arid region.
More than one million others, who are unable to work or grow crops because of the fighting, also depend on food aid.
In total, about three million people, half of Darfur's population, are being kept alive by the international relief operation.
Mr Annan said that renewed fighting and the imminent withdrawal of the AU and Mr Bashir's veto of the peacekeeping force placed that operation in jeopardy.
"The international community has been helping about three million people in camps and elsewhere and if we have to leave because of lack of security, lack of access to the people, then what happens?" he said.
Large areas of Darfur are already closed to aid workers for days or weeks at a time.
The government's new offensive has rendered a swathe of Northern Darfur province inaccessible.
The latest fighting pits the regime's forces against elements of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army and other insurgents who refused to sign a failed peace agreement concluded in May. Relief workers doubt the ability of the Sudan regime to respond effectively in the security situation deteriorates further.