31 August 2007

Sarkozy & Brown's Darfur Push

"It is the combination of a ceasefire, a peacekeeping force, economic reconstruction and the threat of sanctions that can bring a political solution to the region –– and we will spare no efforts in making this happen."

Containers being offloaded by Sudanese army soldiers from a Russian-supplied Antonov 12 freighter aircraft onto military trucks at the military apron of El Geneina airport [Credit: Amnesty International]At first glance, the call in today's Times (and Le Monde) by Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy for intense action to secure a ceasefire in Darfur appears a welcome step towards stopping the genocide in Sudan. They acknowledge that the ceasefire "cannot on its own resolve such a complex conflict" and that "we need a political settlement that addresses the root causes of the violence." They also go further than last month's UN Resolution 1769 in that they threaten "further sanctions against those who fail to fulfil their commitments, obstruct the political process or continue to violate the ceasefire." They are also right to "look beyond Darfur, to the issues affecting Sudan and the region," including the need for better security and greater humanitarian assistance among the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the conflict across the border into Chad.

And yet, underneath, they seem to be accepting a number of false presuppositions:

  • They describe the weak UNAMID operation as the deployment of a "robust force," though it has no authority to disarm the militias or to pursue and arrest suspected war criminals indicted by the International Criminal Court.
  • They make reference to the meeting of Darfur's rebel groups in Tanzania earlier this month, but neglect to mention that the Sudanese Government's subsequent escalation of violence is already causing the rebels to reconsider attending full negotiations.
  • They also make no mention of breaches in existing sanctions, notably by China and Russia, including photographs (such as the one above) published by Amnesty International just last Friday showing military equipment being supplied by Russia at West Darfur's Geneina airport.
  • Perhaps most fundamentally, they appear to believe that a political solution will be the inevitable outcome of the supposed ceasefire and the recently agreed peacekeeping force, whereas in reality a political solution must be found first if any ceasefire is to hold.
To quote both Rodolphe Adada, the new UN-AU mission head, and Mark Kroeker, the retiring UN police chief, once again, although UNAMID is sure to be one of the main tools for forwarding peace in Darfur, "it's only a peace operation — you need to have peace to keep," and "The countries that have been talking about Darfur need to now do something about Darfur with their deployment of police in probably the most desperate place in the world."