KHARTOUM, Sudan — Sudan yesterday endorsed a U.N. resolution to send 26,000 peacekeepers to Darfur, raising hopes for a force that for the first time could provide real protection to civilians in one of the world’s most embattled regions.
If fully deployed, the troops would represent the largest peacekeeping operation for the United Nations. Under the U.N. resolution passed Tuesday, they would be under orders to prevent attacks against civilians.
Attack helicopters expected to be deployed would give the troops a major edge in moving quickly across the large territory in central Africa — about the size of France — to stop village attacks by Arab Janjaweed militias.
Four years of warfare in Darfur has killed more than 200,000 people and driven roughly 2.5 million others from their homes. The conflict began when ethnic African rebels began an insurgency, complaining of discrimination by the Arab government in Khartoum. The government is accused of responding by unleashing the Janjaweed, a militia blamed for widespread killings, rapes and other atrocities against ethnic African civilians. Khartoum denies the claims.
An African Union force of 7,000 troops on the ground has been too small and too poorly equipped to stop the bloodshed.
President Omar Bashir had resisted for months a push to send U.N. peacekeepers. But Sudan agreed in June to a compromise deal for the African Union to deploy jointly with the United Nations in a “hybrid force” to end the violence.
The force will include up to 19,555 military personnel, including 360 military observers and liaison officers, a civilian component including up to 3,772 international police, and 19 special police units with up to 2,660 officers. The United Nations said the force, called UNAMID, will have “a predominantly African character,” as Sudan demanded. African troops already in Darfur will stay there.
France, Denmark and Indonesia offered yesterday to contribute to the force. Nigeria, which has about 2,000 troops in Darfur, said it is ready to send an additional battalion of about 700 soldiers.
Acceptance of the mission marked a major turnaround for Khartoum. Lt. Gen. Bashir said last year he viewed U.N. blue helmets as a neocolonial force and would personally lead the resistance against them if deployed.
“The Sudanese government is committed to implementing its part of the resolution,” Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol told reporters yesterday.
Sudan has a long history of obstructing any international presence in Darfur, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned yesterday that the United States would watch out for any Sudanese backtracking.
“We are expecting the Sudanese government to live up to the commitments it is making,” she said, speaking during a visit to Saudi Arabia.
To avoid a veto from China, Khartoum’s top diplomatic ally, the Security Council repeatedly watered down its new resolution, dropping a crucial provision for additional sanctions against Khartoum if it obstructs U.N. peace efforts. It also removed a provision allowing the force to actively disarm militias and rebels.