Let UN peacekeepers take over from African Union says African church group

 The All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), Africa's largest grouping of churches, yesterday hailed last week's peace accord on the Sudanese Darfur region between the Khartoum Government and Sudanese Liberation Movement, a major rebel group in the country, and which was signed in Abuja, Nigeria on 5 May. The two-page statement said: "we are happy that an agreement was secured between the Sudan Government and al least one of the rebel groups, after the initial faltering of the talks and double extension to the deadline for the peace deal. "However, we are concerned that the two smaller rebel groups rejected the agreement, and it is our fervent prayer that efforts will continue to get the remaining rebel groups on board with peace plans to ensure a lasting solution to the three-year old conflict, the church body statement further pointed out. "We also strongly urge the Sudan government to allow in United Nations peacekeeper to take over from the African Union (AU) troops now that peace deal has been signed. A much more robust mediating presence that the 7,000 AU troops is required to the vast Darfur area to ensure security for displaced person and for the humanitarian relief work to go on, stressed the regional ecumenical church body. "The Church body further applauded the mediation efforts of the African Union (AU), which includes the deployment of 7,000 troops to the Darfur region and organizing the peace talks between the Sudanese Government and rebel groups which took place last week in Abuja, Nigeria. "The church body's statement entitled: Crisis in Darfur and Chad, further pointed out thus, "we are convinced that as much as the Darfur crisis fuels the conflicts in Chad, the Chadian situation in turn fuels the Darfur crisis. This was demonstrated at Chadian Government 's accusations of Sudan's complicity in the mid-April attack that reached the capital N'Djamena." On Chad, specifically, the AACC said it was concerned about internal political crisis in Chad following the May 3rd presidential election, as it is our resolve to support and encourage democracy to thrive in the continent. "It is our earnest hope tat the government and the opposition would engage in dialogue before the elections so as to ensure that polls would be free and fair and would give an opportunity to the people of Chad to elect a leader of their choice, stressed the church body." The statement concluded: "The AACC strongly urges on the conflicting parties in Darfur and Chad to redouble their efforts towards reconciliation. Peace is the only real answer to end misery of those suffering in these regions." Founded in 1963, the AACC represents 169 Protestant churches in 40 African countries.

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