7 November 2008An African Union fact-finding mission to Darfur, aiming to mend the increasingly fraught relationship between Chad and Sudan, visited the hybrid United Nations-AU operation in the war-torn region today. The AU fact-finding team, led by former Burundian President Pierre Buyoya, follows accusations from both Khartoum and N’djamena that the other side has been supporting insurgencies in its country. Attacks by Chadian rebels on N’djamena in February preceded similar rebel assaults on Omdurman, near Khartoum, in May, leading to the escalation of tension between the two countries. The fact-finding team met with the UN-AU mission in Darfur (UNAMID) in the context of AU efforts to normalize the relations between the two States after Sudan’s announced it was cutting off ties with Chad, claiming that it has helped Darfurian rebels attack the Sudanese capital. The fighting in the western Sudanese region of Darfur has significantly affected eastern Chad, where Sudanese civilians escaping the Darfur conflict comprise the majority of the estimated 315,000 refugees in that area. “There is now an opportunity to move forward … It seems that there is a national consciousness that the Darfur issue has to be dealt with,” Mr. Buyoya said in an interview UNAMID radio. “UNMIS [UN Mission in Sudan] before and then UNAMID have done a lot to protect the Darfur people and to assist the peace process in Sudan,” he added. “The Government of Sudan, the African Union and the United Nations have reached a comprehensive agreement on the deployment of UNAMID.” UNAMID has been in place since January, but only about 10,000 military personnel have been deployed so far, well short of the roughly 26,000 troops, military observers and police officers expected when the operation reaches full deployment.