- Title: SENEGAL: Funeral held for Senegalese peacekeepers killed in Darfur
- Date: 13th April 2007
- Summary: COFFIN BEING CARRIED BY SOLDIERS
- Embargoed: 28th April 2007 13:00
- Location: Senegal
- Country: Senegal
- Topics: International Relations,Defence / Military
- Reuters ID: LVA6II23V5D0SWP4FL4RQJUY01L0
- Story Text: The bodies of five Senegalese peacekeepers arrived in Dakar. The soldiers were killed in Darfur while serving with the African Union peacekeeping force that's stationed there. Senegal received on Thursday (April 12) the bodies of five of its soldiers. They were killed by rebels in Darfur while on duty with the African Union (AU) peace mission in Sudan.
Senegal has had a contingent of 538 soldiers in Darfur since early 2005.
Families of the fallen soldiers gathered to watch their coffins, draped in the Senegal flag, being brought for the official ceremony. The mothers and wives of the dead soldiers, some carrying babies on their laps, expressed their grief at losing their loved ones.
AU officials have said their 7,000 strong force is overstretched and under-equipped to police the western Sudanese region the size of France, where more than 200,000 people have been killed in political and ethnic conflict since 2003.
Senegalese soldiers are widely recognised for their role in various peacekeeping efforts with the African Union and United Nations.
"Our soldiers are respected, when they work in other countries they are on peace missions, they are not known for looting, in acts of vandalism against local population, on the contrary they are well known for their compassion, for their respect for the population and their professionalism. That's what makes this a loss firstly for the African continent, not only for Senegal as a country," said Senegal's Foreign Minister, Cheikh Tidiane Gadio.
In a statement late on Wednesday (April 11), the Senegalese government said the country might withdraw its troops from the African Union peacekeeping force in Sudan's Darfur region unless the continental body took action to ensure the force was better equipped to defend itself.
The Senegalese government's statement demanded that the AU chairman, Ghanaian President John Kufuor, and Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, "put our soldiers in the best conditions to be able to carry out their mission and defend themselves in case of necessity".
However, Senegal is committed to continue its efforts in helping other nations overcome problems created by armed conflicts on the continent.
"The entire Senegalese nation is in mourning, we express again our condolences to the families, but it was an important mission for the African continent and Senegal will always be present to defend the interests of the African continent," Gadio said, at the end of the ceremony.
Following the ceremony, the bodies of the five fallen soldiers were taken to their respective villages, where their families will be organising their burials according to their respective traditions.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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