African Union head in Darfur

21 June 2004
The head of the African Union (AU) began a visit to Sudan's western region of Darfur on 20 June to show support for a ceasefire agreement between Khartoum and rebel groups.

AU commission chairman Alpha Omar Konare will spend two days in Darfur to boost enforcement of the ceasefire between Khartoum and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Justice & Equality Movement (JEM).

A ceasefire was agreed in April but has been broken, with each side accusing the other of responsibility. The rebels have accused Khartoum of failing to control the militias who are carrying out the killings in Darfur, while Khartoum has refused to act until rebels left the area.

The AU has the right to intervene directly in a member state in 'grave circumstances'. The AU says that the visit is also aimed at 'further mobilising the international community to provide urgently needed assistance'. Konare will decide on the trip whether to recommend the AU intervenes in Darfur to prevent further atrocities. An estimated 10,000 people have died, and up to a million have fled to refugee camps, some in neighbouring Chad.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has ordered the disarmament of all militias in Darfur, specifically calling for the disarming of Arab militiamen, known as the Janjaweed, who are responsible for perpetrating atrocities in the villages.

The US has threatened sanctions against Sudan, unless what Washington describes as ethnic cleansing is ended.

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