Monday, 25 June 2007

'Redouble' or bust on Darfur

US Secretary of State Condi Rice attended a French conference on Darfur. On Sunday she urged the countries of the world to "redouble" their efforts on ending the horrendous conflict in Sudan's Darfur region.

Ms Rice said they could not "continue to sit by", after an international conference in Paris on the violence that has left some 200,000 people dead.

Officials from the US, Europe and the Arab League discussed how to speed up the deployment of UN troops to Darfur.

But Sudan said the talks were premature as it had already agreed to the force.

The Sudanese Foreign Minister, Lam Akol, told the BBC that his government was in complete agreement with the composition of the peacekeeping force, its command, the nature of its operation and its mission.

"The ball is actually in the court of the United Nations to expedite the operation."

As soon as the still-limited hybrid AU-UN force is created, no doubt Sudan will find another way to wrangle itself out of the situation, either by playing the 'neo-imperialism' card or another excuse. Or maybe it will just hinder any sort of peacekeeping operations like it has been doing since there has been one. In reality one of the reasons it's taking so much time is that the African Union is very short of troops. These kinds of things also take some time and planning.

'Sanctions' was a word Rice used often at the conference:
"Sudan has a history of agreeing to things and then trying to condition or change them or to backtrack and say, 'Well no, we didn't really agree to that,'" Rice said

Rice is sounding hasty. If the Bush administration would have focused on Darfur earlier, instead of loosing credibility and respect fighting international terrorism in its own special way, the conflict would not have gone as far. Is it just a coincidence that the White House notices and talks about Darfur only after a Save Darfur album becomes popular earlier this year? Sounding more, well, diplomatic is Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general.

"We have lost a lot of time while agreements have been made that have not been kept," Rice added. "We can no longer afford a situation in Darfur where agreements are made and not kept."

The U.N. chief, Ban Ki-moon, insisted at the meeting that "slow but credible and considerable progress" has recently been made to resolve the crisis.

This time I disagree with Ban. "Credible and considerable"? How about half-hearted and dismal. But it's his job to keep the slow process of diplomacy on track and looking as positive as it can within reason.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the world must be "firm" with Sudan. "Silence is killing" is one of the better quotes from the conference.

Sanctions may be a solution, but they are a solution China — a major business partner of Sudan — is unlikely to be happy with. China is thursty for oil and Sudan has it. China also has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, which comes with veto power. US President Bush pushed sanctions last month; and the result remains to be seen.

So far any agreement on Darfur has come with little promise of real results; and if the international community won't get its act together, Khartoum sure as hell won't either. Sudan's government backtracks on ending the conflict in Dafur, but then when it is threatened with real action it accepts whatever meager steps are being proposed. Progress on Darfur is like running a marathon with an anvil tied to one leg (note: the Sudanese government is the leg with the anvil tied to it, the free leg represents the people who want the genocide to end).

So why isn't more action being taken by the international justice or human rights organizations of the United Nations? To safeguard national sovereignty, the UN — not counting the Security Council — has a basic rule: don't help unless asked by the government. This just cuts the UN-phobe's 'anti-soverignity international malevolent government' argument to pieces. Individual nations, however, can take actions like, say, invading a country against the will of its government, and they can have the blessing of the UN. But the UN's meddling in a country's affairs is often limited to just-a-piece-of-paper resolutions, and every now and then sanctions or other serious actions by the Security Council.

Up to 300,000 have been killed and 2.5 million made refugees, in addition to countless raped, since 2003. The Sudanese government is suspected — and practically confirmed — of aiding and assisting Janjaweed militias instigating the genocide. It's one of the worst human rights disasters of the still-young 21st century and receives less than 1% the attention as Paris Hilton.

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