UN officials: drop Darfur peacekeepers plan

From BBC, Sept. 29:

UN ‘must drop’ Darfur peace force
Top UN officials say the world body must abandon efforts to pressure Sudan to accept UN peacekeepers in Darfur. UN Sudan envoy Jan Pronk says the existing African Union force should instead be strengthened.

Sudan has always argued that the AU should remain in charge of peacekeeping in Darfur, rather than the UN.

Outgoing deputy secretary general Mark Malloch Brown has meanwhile said the US and UK’s use of “megaphone diplomacy” is almost “counterproductive” in Sudan.

The cash-strapped and poorly equipped AU force currently stationed in Darfur was meant to leave at the end of the month but its mission was recently prolonged until the year’s end.

The 7,000 AU troops have not been able to stop the conflict, which has worsened in recent months.

The UN Security Council has approved sending a larger, better equipped UN peacekeeping force to protect civilians and guarantee the security of aid workers.

But this was dependent on Sudan’s approval, and Khartoum rejected the resolution.

‘Crusade victims’

In an interview with the UK-based Independent newspaper, Mr Malloch Brown said UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George W Bush “need to get beyond this posturing and grandstanding”.

He said the two leaders’ “megaphone diplomacy” was not “plausible”.

“Sudan doesn’t see a united international community,” Mr Malloch Brown said.

He said this meant Khartoum had come to regard itself as the latest front in the “war on terror” – “the victims of the next crusade after Iraq and Afghanistan”.

Mr Malloch Brown said major Arab and African states, as well as China, should play a greater role in diplomacy over Darfur.

China and Russia, which have strong trade ties to Sudan, have blocked previous attempts to get a strong UN resolution on Darfur.

‘More funds’

Mr Pronk has meanwhile told the Associated Press news agency he does not expect Khartoum to accept UN peacekeepers any time soon.

“The international community should instead push for the African Union’s mission to be prolonged and reinforced,” Mr Pronk is quoted as saying.

He said the AU force’s mandate should be extended indefinitely to ensure relief continued to reach Darfur’s refugees.

Mr Pronk is quoted as saying he was certain Khartoum would allow the AU force to stay on in Darfur.

World leaders, he said, must guarantee more funds for the AU so it can carry out necessary peacekeeping work.

“Otherwise, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot each time,” he said.

“Our first priority must be to help the people of Darfur.”

More than 200,000 people have died in Darfur since 2003 in violence blamed on rebels and pro-government militia groups.

More than 2 million have been displaced by the fighting.

See our last posts on Darfur and the politics of the Sahel.

  1. More from UK Independent

    Nowhere are the new limitations of US power today more exposed thanover Darfur, where Washington has used the word “genocide” to condemn the scorched earth policies of the Sudanese government against the people of Darfur and the rebel groups who hide among them. But, says Malloch Brown, in their outrage the US and the UK are, “out there alone and it’s counter-productive almost”.

    “Sudan doesn’t see a united international community. It doesn’t see its oil customers [China and Russia] or its neighbours in that front row. And that allows it to characterise themselves as the victims of the next crusade after Iraq and Afghanistan. So Tony Blair and George Bush need to get beyond this posturing and grandstanding. The megaphone diplomacy coming out of Washington and London: ‘you damn well are going to let the UN deploy and if you don’t beware the consequences’ isn’t plausible. The Sudanese know we don’t have troops to go in against a hostile Khartoum government; if Sudan opposes us there’s no peace to keep anyway; you’re in there to fight a war. It’s just not a credible threat.”

    What is needed instead is two things: “a carefully-modulated set of incentives and sanctions which Sudan needs to understand” and a diplomatic coalition to back them.

    Khartoum wants four things: “the normalisation of their relations with the US, UK and others; an opportunity to deploy their new oil wealth and exercise global diplomatic and economic influence; a UN deployment that will increase their authority as the national government of Sudan and not undermine it; and a way of handling the International Criminal Court indictments laid against members of the Khartoum government which they all feel very threatened by. Those are the kind of issues which the Sudanese need to hear a positive message on.

    “But in the other pocket there need to be the sanctions. And those pluses and minuses need to be echoed not just by a group of Western leaders but by a much broader cross-section of countries that Sudan respects and trusts. That’s what we’re now trying to orchestrate. We’ve been working very hard on getting China to be part of the next set of diplomatic demarches to put pressure on the Sudanese. We’re working on how can we bring the major states within the Arab League and the African Union more into frontline diplomacy.”

    Meantime, he says, the West could do with matching its moral indignation with cash. The food aid pipeline to three million hungry people in Darfur is still $300m short of what is needed. And the African Union peacekeeping forces in the region – inadequate but the only game in town – isn’t properly financed till the end of the year. Western governments, he says, “have really taken their eye off the ball on this”.