Late last month, the United Nations Security Council finally agreed to send UN peacekeepers to Darfur, in Sudan. In the western region of Darfur, what some (including me) call genocide has raged on since 2003, resulting in the deaths of a minimum of 200,000 people and the rape of many more. Millions have exited Darfur, seeking refuge, and the conflict appears to have spread to neighboring Chad, destabilizing the region.
Khartoum has remained defiant, as I've blogged about, and the current AU force there is unable to do its job because of the government's undermining tactics. Although a hybrid UN-AU force was agreed upon earlier this year Sudan's government has been doing everything possible to prevent it from helping its people — pressure from China was essential for the plan to go through.
Resolution 1769 was passed unanimously. It has been called weak by some, probably because the need to placate China, which has a permanent seat on the Security Council and has ties to the Sudanese government (Sudan has what everyone wants: oil). However, it's better to have some than none and sometimes, even on humanitarian issues, concessions are needed to see the plan through. Diplomacy's all about compromise; China's vote was needed for this resolution and the people of Darfur have waited and suffered long enough.
The mandate for the 26,000-strong force was watered down to appease critics and it will only be able to protect civilians deemed to be under threat.
The new UN-AU mission head welcomed the move but urged a political solution "as there needs to be a peace to keep".
The warring factions in the four-year conflict are due to meet on Friday.
The mission, to be known as Unamid - the United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur - is expected to cost up to $2bn (£1.1bn) a year and will be world's largest peacekeeping force.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described the mission as "historic and unprecedented".
The new force will not have the right to disarm the militias and it does not have the powers to pursue and arrest suspected war criminals indicted by the International Criminal Court.
In a recent update:
Most of Darfur's rebel groups have agreed on a common position and want "final" talks with Sudan's government within two or three months.
A political solution is needed, though, and the Darfur groups rebelling against the government know that. The rebel groups often shift positions following agreements so this is by no means a final accord.
Resolution lacking resolve (?)
This new international force will be able to actually use force and defend local citizens and the foreign workers there from state-backed rebels and even state forces themselves (a key reason humanitarian work there has been stinted). It will number around 26,000 and, as stated above, consists of United Nations and African Union peacekeepers. The first of the troops should arrive in October. Everyone but the leaders in Khartoum have been pushing for a peacekeeping force in Darfur — the civilians, the aid agencies, the rebels, foreign governments. The Darfur rebel groups seem to be content with the resolution.
Sanctions — which were suggested by the Bush administration a while back (all talk, no action) — have been taken off the table with this resolution. So what leverage does the peacekeeping force have over Khartoum? Next to none, it seems.
The fact that it is fueling the genocide aside, isn't it reprehensible that the Sudan is keeping even the most basic and essential aid from reaching its own citizens? In the end of all this, who will get off scot-free, and who will have to face justice?