Home | Comment & Analysis    Saturday 17 June 2006

The UN Security Council and a final betrayal of Darfur

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No willingness to confront Khartoum on the need for civilian and humanitarian protection

By Eric Reeves

June 16, 2006 — Despite rapidly escalating violence throughout Darfur and eastern Chad,
the UN Security Council refuses to push for urgent measures to protect
civilians and humanitarians. Instead, deferential Council members have
repeatedly insisted that the genocidaires of the National Islamic Front
regime in Khartoum will determine whether an international force deploys
to Darfur, even as the regime continues to send explicit signals that it
has no intention of allowing for such deployment. In short, all
evidence suggests that the only protection for a region the size of
France will continue to be a radically inadequate African Union (AU)
force---and that most of eastern Chad will continue to be without
security of any kind. This continuing exclusive reliance on the AU,
whose performance has recently deteriorated badly, comes even as
"reports from the UN and the AU indicate that violence against
civilians in Darfur has doubled since the May 5 peace deal" (Associated
Press [dateline Khartoum], June 7, 2006).

The AU itself increasingly recognizes that it simply cannot provide the
security required in Darfur or implement the merely notional "Darfur
Peace Agreement," which has been overwhelmingly rejected by Darfuris in
the camps and elsewhere as wholly inadequate in addressing their
security concerns"

"’We need to hand over the baton to the UN,’ [AU Commission Chairman
Alpha Oumar Konare] said. ’There is a necessity today to implement the
Darfur Peace Agreement.... The AU today does not have the resources to
be there. We have to be clear about that.... We don’t have the capacity
to face a peacekeeping situation or an extended conflict.’" (Associated
Press [dateline: Addis Ababa], June 7, 2006)

But even were the Security Council to find the political will, over
Khartoum’s objections and a menacing Chinese veto threat, to pass a
resolution authorizing deployment of a UN peace support operation with
Chapter 7 authority, the timeline is unconscionably long. As UN
peacekeeping head Jean-Marie Guehenno recently confessed:

"’A six-month timeline between the decision to deploy and the
deployment is a more practical timeline especially if you think of the
logistical conditions in Darfur,’ [Guehenno ] said. ’January 2007 is a
much more realistic date.’" (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], June 12,
2006)

But half a year from now hundreds of thousands of Darfuris may have
died from the consequences of previous genocidal destruction and the
increasingly likely evacuation of humanitarian workers who are also
victims of the chaotic violence. As Jan Egeland, head of UN
humanitarian aid operations, recently warned:

"The UN will withdraw its aid workers from the troubled Darfur region
of Sudan unless their security is ensured soon, UN emergency relief
coordinator Jan Egeland said on Wednesday [May 31, 2006]. ’When we feel
that we are gambling with the lives of our humanitarian workers, we will
leave,’ Egeland told Reuters. ’I hope it will be never but it could be
next week.’" (Reuters [dateline: Paris], May 31, 2006)

Moreover, the deployment of a UN force to Darfur would not in itself
address the acute and growing security crisis in eastern Chad. The UN
High Commission for Refugees recently declared that it was "extremely
concerned about continued attacks by Janjaweed militia in eastern Chad,"
reporting that:

"The Janjaweed attacks against Chadians appear to have become more
systematic and deadly over the past three months and there is no sign
that this pattern will stop." (UNHCR press release [Goz Beida, eastern
Chad], June 6, 2006)

Particularly targeted are the Dajo, an African tribal group that
straddles the Chad/Darfur border. 350,000 conflict-affected persons in
Chad---refugees, internally displaced persons, and others---are without
security and face continual predations by Khartoum-backed Janjaweed
militia. They must also live with the grim prospect of a precipitous
withdrawal of humanitarian aid workers who are unable to cope with the
rising levels of violence and increasing militarization of refugee camps
(where Darfuri insurgents now engage in forced recruitment of men and
boys, making the camps more likely targets for violence).

At the same time, humanitarian conditions in Darfur are becoming
increasingly desperate. In an extremely ominous development, a cholera
outbreak has been reported in South Darfur:

"A cholera outbreak in Sudan has spread to the war-torn western Darfur
region, posing a serious threat to the 2.5 million living in squalid
camps in cramped conditions, a UN statement said. ’The World Health
Organisation (WHO) in Nyala (South Darfur) confirmed 65 cases of acute
watery diarrhoea,’ said a UN statement sent late on Sunday [June 11,
2006]." (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], June 12, 2006)

A cholera epidemic, at the outset of the rainy season, has the
potential to claim many tens of thousands of lives, particularly among
populations cut off from adequate medical resources, including
intravenous fluids. One fatality has already been recorded in the
extremely volatile Gereida area, which has only extremely tenuous
humanitarian access:

"The [UN World Health Organization] statement said an aid agency had
confirmed one cholera fatality in Gereida, in southeast Darfur, where
almost 100,000 people have fled their homes to seek safety in the
town."

Cholera causes vomiting and acute diarrhea that can lead to rapid
dehydration and death within 24 hours if not treated.

THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL RESPONSE

With this vast tableau of human suffering and destruction as backdrop,
with uncontrolled violence threatening ever more acutely thousands of
humanitarian workers and critical aid operations, the UK ambassador to
the UN Security Council offers these words to the people of Darfur and
eastern Chad:

"The leader of the Security Council delegation, British Ambassador Emyr
Jones Parry, said the envoys spent the day trying to reassure Sudanese
officials. ’There is no question this is an intervention force,’ he
said. ’We gave the clear message that any force will be here with the
consent and cooperation of the Sudanese government.’" (Los Angeles
Times [dateline: Khartoum], June 7, 2006)

"’We have reinforced that we have come in spirit of partnership, of
respecting fully the sovereignty---the territorial integrity---of Sudan,’
Parry added."

"The UK’s UN ambassador, Emyr Jones Parry, who is leading the UN
mission, said the council underlined to president [Omar el-Bashir] that
a UN takeover of peacekeeping in Darfur ’could only happen with the
consent of the government.’" (Associated Press [dateline: Khartoum],
June 6, 2006)

Mr. Parry is entirely representative of the UN Security Council in
putting the need for Khartoum’s "consent," as well as its claims of
national sovereignty, before the desperate security and humanitarian
needs of the almost 4 million conflict-affected persons in Darfur and
eastern Chad.

Parry’s comments were echoed by UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Marie
Guehenno:

"’The United Nations never imposes itself on any country,’ UN
peacekeeping chief Jean-Marie Guehenno told reporters after the joint
team met Foreign Minister Lam Akol." (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], June
10, 2006)

The timing of this perverse deference is savagely ironic, coming just
as the lead prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, Luis
Moreno-Ocampo has offered an update on the ICC investigation of massive
crimes against humanity in Darfur---crimes which, under the principle of
an international "responsibility to protect" unanimously accepted by all
countries at the September 2005 UN World Summit, should incinerate
Khartoum’s claims of national sovereignty in determining how Sudan’s
civilians are protected.

"The UN-backed court probing war crimes in Darfur has documented
thousands of civilian deaths, hundreds of alleged rapes and a
’significant number’ of massacres that killed hundreds of people at
once, the [ICC] top prosecutor said Wednesday [June 14]. Many witnesses
and victims have reported that three ethnic groups in particular---the
Fur, Massalit and Zaghawa---had been singled out for attack in Darfur,
Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in a report to the Security Council." [ ]

"’In most of the incidents...there are eyewitness accounts that the
perpetrators made statements reinforcing the [ethnically] targeted
nature of the attacks, such as "we will kill all the black" and "we will
drive you out of this land,’" his report said." (Associated Press
[dateline: UN, New York], June 14, 2006)

We should compare these findings with the extant documentary evidence
urging genocide, of the sort reported by Julie Flint and Alex de Waal in
their superb "Darfur: A Short History of a Long War" (2005):

"The ultimate objective in Darfur is spelled out in an August 2004
directive from [Janjaweed paramount leader Musa] Hilal’s headquarters:
’Change the demography of Darfur and empty it of African tribes.’" (page
39)

These conspicuously genocidal acts and ambitions are no less governing
of Khartoum’s attitudes toward Darfur, although the increasingly chaotic
nature of the violence in Darfur following the Abuja "peace agreement"
demands less and less militarily orchestrated action. "Genocide by
attrition" daily gains new meaning in Darfur, as the terrible aftermath
of previous ethnically targeted violence and displacement creates a
cauldron of human suffering and destruction. Khartoum is also working
with superb efficiency to exacerbate ethnic tensions; it is also
exacerbating tensions between the various Sudan Liberation Army/Movement
(SLA/M) factions, only one of which (that of the increasingly brutal
Minni Minnawi) has signed the Abuja accord.

The result of this internecine fighting perversely serves the
genocidal ambitions of Khartoum:

"Deutsche Welthungerhilfe (German Agro Action) has been forced to halt
its relief supplies in many areas of the Darfur region. 385,000 people
will therefore not receive food rations in June and are thus at risk of
starvation. The reason behind this is the fighting going on for weeks
between various groups of the SLA [ ]. On the 5th May 2006 a peace
treaty was signed by the government in Khartoum and the SLA. However,
this was not recognised by all the rebel groups. Since then relief
organisations have not been able to access SLA-dominated areas. ’If
fighting between rebel factions doesn’t stop soon then thousands of
people will starve, warned regional coordinator, Johan van der Kamp."
(Deutsche Welthungerhilfe [Bonn], June 14, 2006)

KHARTOUM’S RESPONSE

Having granted Khartoum the power to veto any UN deployment, the UN
Security Council might have expected an appropriately conciliatory
response from Khartoum. Instead, as the following compendium suggests,
the regime’s genocidaires have made clear they have no intention of
allowing an international force into Darfur. This ensures the genocidal
status quo.

[1] "’Our position is against any foreign interference in Darfur. The
UN troops will complicate rather than solve things,’ Elsamani Elwasila,
Sudan’s minister of state for foreign affairs, told journalists in the
Kenyan capital of Nairobi, Wednesday [June14, 2006]. ’We do not want
some people to tell us what we need. We know what we need,’ he added.
Instead, [the Khartoum] government favours expanding the African
Union force which is already on the ground in Darfur, saying this
mission has enough experience to manage the situation there...." (Inter
Press Service [dateline: Nairobi], June 14, 2006)

[2] "Presidential adviser [and chief Abuja negotiator] Majzoub
al-Khalifa Ahmed said: ’We have expressed our opposition to deployment
in Darfur of international forces.’ ’We have made it clear to the UN
mission that we have not ordered the AU to hand the mandate it has been
accorded over to any other authority, and that the Darfur Peace
Agreement has not provided for a UN role.’" (Agence France Presse
[dateline: Khartoum], June 12, 2006)

[3] "UN Security Council members were unable to convince Sudan’s
President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir on Tuesday [June 6, 2006] of the need
for a robust peacekeeping mission to help protect civilians in the
violent Darfur region, diplomats said. The 15-nation Council,
represented by 10 ambassadors and five deputy ambassadors, visited Sudan
for the first time to try to convince the Khartoum government the UN did
not intend to send an invasion force to the western region or dispatch
troops without Sudan’s consent."

"But Bashir played ’bad cop,’ said one envoy at the two-hour
closed-door meeting. Others said he argued the AU, now in Darfur, could
do the job by itself, rather than some 10,000 peacekeepers the UN is
planning to help quell the violence that has driven more than 2.5
million people from their homes." (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], June 6,
2006)

"Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir took a tough line with
Security Council members in Khartoum on Tuesday [June 6, 2006] against
any kind of robust UN force, invoking the US-led invasion of Iraq and
fearing a UN mandate would give foreign troops free military reign,
council members reported." (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], June 7, 2006)

[4] And on traveling to Darfur, the UN Security Council members should
have gathered a clear sense of how Khartoum will use some tribal leaders
in the region to communicate its objection to the UN, as well as the
hateful anti-Jewish propaganda that is embraced by the regime:

"Mowadh Jalaladin, a representative of the Barty tribe, which he said
has about 250,000 members, said handing over to a UN force ’would
inaugurate foreign occupation and intervention’ and remind Sudanese of
the colonial past, echoing earlier government rhetoric that has fanned
anti-U.N. sentiment. If a UN force comes to Darfur, Jalaladin said, ’We
are declaring jihad against it. It means death. It means defending Sudan
and Islam.’"

"’The root causes of the Darfur conflict are the doing of the Jewish
organizations who financed this armed rebellion,’ he claimed. ’We don’t
want the Security Council to be an instrument of the ugly undertakings
of the United States of America.’" (Associated Press [dateline:
el-Fasher], June 9, 2006)

But opposition to a UN force with an appropriate mandate comes not only
from the Khartoum regime and its minions in Darfur. In addition to a
previously articulated Chinese opposition to any deployment of UN forces
under a Chapter 7 resolution, Russia also weighed in on the issue during
the recent Security Council mission to Sudan and eastern Chad:

"Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, Konstantin Dolgov, told reporters there
was strong Sudanese opposition to putting a peacekeeping force in Darfur
under Chapter 7, ’and we have to respect this position, because we have
to have consent and agreement of the government.’" (Associated Press
[dateline: Khartoum], June 6, 2006)

Russia has exported vast quantities of advanced military equipment to
the Khartoum regime.

CHAPTER 7 (PEACEMAKING) AUTHORITY

Though the adequacy and timeliness of any UN peacemaking force in
Darfur are highly doubtful, we may be certain that no meaningful UN
force could deploy to Darfur without Chapter 7 authority, which is why
Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations are rightly so
insistent on the issue:

"The UN Security Council must promptly secure Sudan’s consent for a UN
force in Darfur with a mandate to ensure the protection of civilians,
Human Rights Watch said today [June 3, 2006]. [ ] Sudanese
government-backed ’Janjaweed’ militias and armed opposition groups in
Darfur continue to put civilians at grave risk. Militia forces based in
Darfur are also increasingly committing atrocities against Chadian
civilians across the border in Chad, in some instances with the
participation of Chadian recruits, Human Rights Watch said."

"’The need for a strong international force in Darfur to deter attacks
on civilians and secure the Chad-Sudan border is greater than ever,’
said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director for Human Rights Watch. ’A
robust force to protect civilians could help end three years of war
crimes in Darfur, but only if it’s given the means to do so. The
Security Council must mandate a UN force to use "all necessary means" to
protect civilians.’"

"A mission in Darfur under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, with the
authorization to use ’all necessary means,’ would enable a UN force to
use a range of measures, including aggressive preventive actions, to
react to, or to deter attacks on civilians, including humanitarian aid
workers and convoys." (Human Rights Watch press release, June 3, 2006)

But HRW’s language---"The UN Security Council must promptly secure
Sudan’s consent for a UN force in Darfur with a mandate to ensure the
protection of civilians"---forces the essential question: what if the UN
Security Council does not "promptly secure" Sudan’s consent? What
happens if Khartoum, hearing the UN Security Council repeatedly profess
that any deployment must be consensual, decides that it simply will not
give its consent? How long are Human Rights Watch and other
organizations prepared to wait to find out whether Khartoum will give
its "consent"? What if Khartoum’s consent is conditional---i.e.,
offered on the condition that only an ineffectual Chapter 6 mandate
governs deployment? This latter may well be the very "compromise" the
regime is now engineering with its resolute resistance to any UN force.

But then how would the urgent needs compellingly outlined by HRW be
fulfilled? How would a weak UN deployment, modestly augmenting the very
weak current AU force, engage in the robust actions rightly identified
as necessary to provide security for civilians and humanitarians?

These questions cannot be skirted; to do so, given the obvious
political obstacles at the UN outlined above, is a form of
disingenuousness. It is incumbent upon HRW, if the organization is truly
serious about ending violent civilian destruction in Darfur, to declare
what it proposes if the UN does not act.

KHARTOUM AND THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY

The issue here is essential, since Khartoum has long demonstrated its
willingness to flout the will of the international community when
assured of support from China, Russia, and the Arab League. Only such
support emboldens Khartoum in its continuing refusal to accept the
jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court:

"Sudan said on Thursday [June 15, 2006] the International Criminal
Court did not have jurisdiction over crimes in the violent Darfur region
and no officials would be interrogated by the court. ’If they are here
to discuss the progress of [Sudanese domestic] trials or the role of
national justice then we are ready to give them whatever information
they are looking for,’ said Sudan’s Justice Minister Mohammed al-Mardi.
’But if the matter is about investigations, then they...don’t have
the jurisdiction.’" (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], June 15, 2006)

Such obduracy is another form of Khartoum’s insistence upon "national
sovereignty," a claim made with the clear conviction that there is no
international will to challenge such insistence. Khartoum’s conviction
is only strengthened by statements such as the following from Egypt:

"Egypt is maintaining its regional and international efforts in support
of Sudan in its endeavours to bring about reconciliation, peace and
preserve its territorial integrity. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul
Gheit has given clear-cut and definitive directives to the heads of all
Egyptian diplomatic missions abroad to highlight Egypt’s firm stand
towards the Sudanese question within the context of protecting Egypt’s
national security, one of whose main planks is stability in Sudan, a
diplomatic source said on Thursday." (Sudan Tribune [dateline: Cairo],
June 1, 2006)

"Preserve [Sudan’s] territorial integrity" is little more than a code
phrase for insisting upon Khartoum’s absolute claim to national
sovereignty in all matters. Asserted in the context of "Egypt’s
national security," the claim is given all possible authority. This is
certainly how it is heard by the National Islamic Front regime.

IN THE ABSENCE OF A WILLINGNESS TO CHALLENGE KHARTOUM’S CLAIM OF
"NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY"

An accelerating attenuation of humanitarian assistance, caused by
violence and insecurity as well as the relentlessly brazen obstruction
of humanitarian aid, is the most significant consequence of the
international failure to override Khartoum’s claim of national
sovereignty. We have all too much evidence that the loss of capacity
and access is increasing rapidly. A New York Times dispatch offers a
harrowing, if all too representative, account of the large Zam Zam camp
for displaced persons in North Darfur:

"Red tape has hamstrung the aid effort. Foreign workers wait months for
permits and visas from the Sudanese government, and those already here
are forced to pay hundreds of dollars every three months to renew their
visas. Local workers face harassment and intimidation by Sudanese
intelligence agents, government soldiers and rebels."

"Staff members of aid organizations have been abducted or killed and
their four-wheel-drive vehicles stolen by rebels and Arab militias.
Because of such security problems, as many as 750,000 people in Darfur
are beyond the reach of aid workers." (New York Times [dateline: Zam
Zam, North Darfur], May 31, 2006)

Three quarters of a million people beyond humanitarian reach in
Darfur---and a substantial number more in eastern Chad. This number
grows at a highly alarming rate, even as we know these people will die
in huge numbers during the current rainy seasons/"hunger gap."

Overall malnutrition in Darfur is also on the increase because of
diminished humanitarian capacity, access, and funding:

"Then last month, UNICEF said child malnutrition in Darfur was creeping
back up toward the level it reached in 2004, when the crisis was at its
worst. The World Food Program announced this month that it would halve
rations for Darfur because it had received only 32 percent of the $746
million it needed to feed the needy in Darfur. Those cuts have been
largely restored, because the Sudanese government released 20,000 tons
of grain for Darfur from its vast strategic reserves after intense
criticism. Several shiploads of grain donated by the United States are
on their way, and other countries have made donations since rations were
cut, but it will take months for the food to arrive where it is needed
most, aid officials said." (New York Times [dateline: Zam Zam, North
Darfur], May 30, 2006)

But in fact this 20,000 metric tons of sorghum "contributed" by
Khartoum has turned out to be infested with insects and apparently unfit
for human consumption:

"The World Food Programme (WFP) is testing food donated by the Sudanese
government for people in its war-torn western Darfur region to see if it
is fit for human consumption, officials said. Two UN sources who
declined to be named said the 20,000 tonnes of sorghum, from Sudan’s
strategic food reserves, had been kept for too long and was infested
with insects."

"Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha, who rarely talks to the media,
called a news conference at the presidential palace in Khartoum last
month to announce the government was donating 20,000 tonnes of sorghum
to WFP to help with the shortage. But two other UN sources on Wednesday
said that food had been in storage for so long it was very likely to be
inedible." (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], June 7, 2006)

We also catch another glimpse of Khartoum’s strategy in compromising
humanitarian aid with the belatedly rescinded expulsion of the
distinguished Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC):

"The NRC was forced to suspend its work in the region after being
evicted [by the Sudanese authorities] on 5 April [2006]. On Thursday
[June 1], the relief agency finalised its negotiations with Sudanese
authorities and regained access to the volatile region. ’Our staff has
started to return to Darfur the end of last week and they restarted
their operations over the weekend,’ [NRC’s] Astrid Sehl [said]. ’All our
staff has been waiting in Khartoum [Sudan’s capital] over the last 2
months.’"

"The ban has hindered the distribution of food to 50,000 people and
disrupted coordination in the largest camp for internally displaced
people in Darfur---Kalma, near the South Darfur capital of Nyala, which
shelters approximately 100,000 people. ’The condition for IDPs
[internally displaced persons] in Kalma camp has worsened during the
forced suspension of our activities. The rates of murder, rape and
random imprisonment have increased. The tense situation has led to a
number of demonstrations and riots,’ said Tomas Archer, the
organisation’s secretary-general." (UN Integrated Regional Information
Networks, June 5, 2006)

Such actions by Khartoum, deliberately destructive of human life and
livelihood, have grown so commonplace that they are only rarely
reported.

THE AFRICAN UNION ON THE GROUND IN DARFUR

With much ado, the African Union formally announced the formation of a
new Ceasefire Commission per the terms of the Abuja accord (which sets
up many other impressive sounding bodies, but with no indication of
where adequate resources and staffing will come from). Here it may be
useful to recall that the previous Ceasefire Commission, tasked with
producing regular reports, last met in October 2005. The radical
inadequacy of the AU to the crisis in Darfur and eastern Chad is as
clear now as it was over half a year ago. There remains a critical lack
of manpower, equipment, transport capacity, logistics, intelligence,
administrative capacity, and mandate.

Though the issue of AU mandate is vaguely addressed in the Abuja
agreement, the ugly truth is that the AU force is actually increasingly
unable to undertake the critical tasks of civilian and humanitarian
protection. Extremely reliable sources report that AU performance is
declining dramatically. There are fewer and fewer AU patrols on the
ground, and a continuing absence from many of the major IDP camps.
There are presently no "fire wood patrols" (designed to protect women
and girls from rape by the Janjaweed and other violent elements as they
gather wood) anywhere in South or West Darfur. "The overall trend,"
according to one particularly well-placed observer, "is bad." Instead
of improving steadily with experience, the AU is failing ever more
conspicuously. This was predicted with terrible accuracy in a report
last year by Refugees International:

"With the growing number of attacks on the [AU mission] over the past
few months, it appears that [the AU] is being tested by the armed
factions to see if it is a force to be ignored or respected. As [the AU
mission] is tested and found ineffective due to resource, training, and
mandate constraints, their deterrence factor will decline and they will
more often become targets, as will civilians under their protection. [ ]
Unless this situation is remedied, the violence will thus likely grow in
Darfur with more and more civilian and AU casualties." Refugees
International, "No Power to Protect: The African Union Mission in Sudan"
(November 2005, at
http://www.refugeesinternational.org/content/publication)

Tragically, this is precisely what has occurred (see my two-part
overview of various reports by Refugees International and others on AU
performance and capacity, "The Ghosts of Rwanda: The Failure of the
African Union in Darfur," November 2005:
http://www.sudanreeves.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=Sections&file=index&req=viewarticle&artid=535&page=1
and
http://www.sudanreeves.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=Sections&file=index&req=viewarticle&artid=534&page=1).

There is to be a donors meeting with the AU and UN peacekeeping
officials on July 7, 2006 in Brussels, designed to bolster AU capacity
in light of a belated or non-existent UN peace support operation. Given
current realities, it is impossible to see how this meeting will produce
a truly effective force. Honest members of the AU force admit their
inadequacy:

"’Monitoring [the Abuja] agreement with only the troops we have now
will be a failure,’ said Lieutenant Colonel John Asabre, in charge of
intelligence and security at the African Union Mission to Sudan
headquarters." (The Guardian, UK [dateline: South Darfur], June 7,
2006)

[See also statement by AU Commission Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare
above.]

The hopeless lack of military resources could be partially remedied by
Western countries, although their growing conviction of AU incapacity
and inefficiency (especially on the part of the EU in Brussels) deeply
constrains a willingness to give more help:

"There are two tarmac roads [in Darfur]; the rest are little more than
donkey tracks. When it rains, they become impassable. Yet [the AU] has
just three fixed-wing aircraft and 25 transport helicopters, which were
donated by the Canadian government with the caveat that they fly no more
than 1,100 hours a month---less than 90 minutes each a day."

"Equipped with light weapons, [AU] soldiers are vastly outgunned by the
rebels, the Janjaweed militia and their Sudanese military allies.
Communication equipment is badly lacking, as are translators." (The
Guardian, UK [dateline: South Darfur], June 7, 2006)

Despite this lack of translators, Associated Press reports from Zam Zam
camp (North Darfur) that during a recent patrol, "while several
translators at the nearby el-Fasher headquarters complained they were
underworked, the AU military patrol Friday did not include a single Fur
or Arabic speaker" (June 10, 2006).

Further, the AU continues to be badly constrained in its operations by
Khartoum’s relentless obstructionism; in a telling example, one of
scores, Reuters recently reported that "AU troops in their headquarters
in el-Fasher [capital of North Darfur] are still subject to a [Khartoum]
government-imposed curfew and cannot use the airport at night"
(dateline: Kutum, June 9, 2006).

To be sure, the AU must urgently receive as much support as it can
usefully absorb; it will remain the only force on the ground for the
foreseeable future. But as earlier reports on the AU have made clear,
there are fundamental structural, capacity, and political obstacles to
any significant improvement. The AU may be augmented, but it simply
cannot be made into a remotely adequate force for Darfur. It is for
precisely these reasons that Khartoum has repeatedly insisted that the
AU remain the only force in Darfur:

"’We do not want some people to tell us what we need. We know what we
need,’ [Elsamani Elwasila, Sudan’s minister of state for foreign
affairs] added. Instead, [the Khartoum] government favours expanding
the African Union (AU) force which is already on the ground in Darfur,
saying this mission has enough experience to manage the situation
there..." (see above).

CATASTROPHE

Over two weeks ago Jan Egeland, UN humanitarian chief, warned of "a
catastrophic situation developing in Darfur unless international donors
act soon to bolster a beleaguered African peacekeeping force in the
Sudanese province. ’We either get good news in the next few weeks, or we
have catastrophic news later,’ Jan Egeland [said]" (Associated Press
[dateline: Brussels], May 30, 2006). No reasonable reading of
statements or developments of the past two weeks by UN, US, or European
officials---or any other international actors---suggests that any "good
news" is in the making. Khartoum remains obdurately opposed to the kind
of force necessary to halt genocidal destruction in Darfur and the
increasing bleeding of ethnic violence into Chad. Egeland’s
"catastrophic news" will not be long in coming.

* Eric Reeves, Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063. He can be reached at
ereeves@smith.edu. Website:
www.sudanreeves.org



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