There are credible reports that in recent weeks Arab militia forces, the “Janjaweed”, have been acting in close co-operation with the Government of Sudan air force and armed forces in attacking non-signatory rebel groups in Darfur, including targeting some villages in north Darfur. We have consistently made clear to the Government of Sudan that they must stop the fighting and implement the peace agreement, including disarming the Janjaweed. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development intends to raise this with the Government when he travels to Sudan later this month.
The Government of Sudan has made a commitment to disarm the Janjaweed/armed militias in the Darfur Peace Agreement. We are pressing the Government of Sudan to present a disarmament plan and take this work forward. There is no requirement per se for the Government of Sudan to disarm other groups, other than as part of balanced force reductions demanded in the Naivasha Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Here, too, we are pressing for early progress.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has had no recent discussions with the President of Nigeria about Darfur. However, on 22 September, the Nigerian Foreign Minister and my right. hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary met fellow Foreign Ministers in New York to discuss Darfur. They agreed on the need for concerted international action to get the Government of Sudan and the rebel movements to stop the fighting; to agree to the deployment of a UN force; to co-operate in bolstering the African Union in the interim; and the importance of rapid implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement. This meeting was preceded by discussions on 21 September between my noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, and the Nigerian Foreign Minister on these issues.
Nigeria has a key role to play in helping to address the appalling crisis in Darfur. Our High Commission in Abuja is in frequent contact with the Nigerian authorities on all aspects of the Darfur crisis. We are keen to work in close co-ordination with Nigeria and other African states, as well as other interested parties, to help address the terrible plight of Darfur.
In recent months, the UN and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in South Darfur have reported an increase in violence, rape and sexual attacks. However, no reliable figures exist for the total number of such incidents across Darfur since the conflict began.
However, every death, casualty or rape in Sudan is a tragedy. That is why we are pressing the Government of Sudan and the rebel groups to stop the fighting; to agree to the deployment of a UN force in Darfur; to co-operate in bolstering the African Union in the interim; to commit to and implement the Darfur Peace Agreement; and to ensure full humanitarian access for the UN and NGOs in Darfur.
The UK is a leading supporter of the African Union (AU) Mission in Darfur (AMIS). We were its first donor and have to date provided £52 million of assistance. This has been used for budgetary support; to purchase vehicles and other equipment; and to airlift troops to and from Darfur. The AU has now decided to increase the strength of AMIS by two battalions (approximately 1,200 men). We stand ready to assist them in this. Meanwhile, at our urging the UN is helping to bolster AMIS prior to transition to a UN force. We are considering contributing additional personnel as part of the UN assistance package.
The UN Sanctions Panel of Experts, established under UN Security Council Resolution 1591, reports widespread harassment and killing of civilians by all sides to the conflict in Darfur. Rebel groups have recently attacked and hijacked humanitarian convoys and seized aid intended for the 3.5 million people in Darfur in need of assistance.
We utterly condemn these attacks. We have consistently made clear to the rebel movements and the Government of Sudan that they must stop the violence and commit to a political solution, including co-operating with humanitarian agencies.