The African Union (AU)/UN hybrid mission in Darfur (UNAMID), which is set to replace the AU's African Mission in Sudan (AMIS) has inaugurated its operational base in the town of El Fasher.
UNAMID, established by the Security Council in July 2007, will eventually comprise 19,555 military and 6,432 police personnel, making it one of the largest UN peacekeeping missions in history.
It is widely hoped that the hybrid force will be more effective in protecting civilians in Darfur than AMIS, which was made up of just 7,000 troops.
"Today [31 October] UNAMID marks its first day in its El Fasher Headquarters, completing preparations to assume operational command authority as requested by the Security Council," Rodolphe Adada, UN-AU Joint Special Representative for Darfur said in a statement. "We have already completed the pre-handover preparations involving deployment and movement of command elements and key staff to their designated offices, spaces and installations throughout Darfur."
Officials from both the UN and AU were already conducting pre-deployment visits to countries that have pledged to contribute soldiers, to inspect the troops and their equipment. The joint mission has not received adequate pledges for specialised units, such as air and land transport support, Adada said.
The troops are expected from Burkina Faso, Egypt, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal. Other potential contributors are Bangladesh, Jordan, Nordic countries, Nepal, Netherlands and Thailand.