No willingness to confront Khartoum on the need for civilian and humanitarian protection
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)
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.
 “‘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)
 “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)
 “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)
 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 . 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:
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).
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.