“During the last six months, we have made slow but credible and considerable progress in helping resolve this Darfur situation,’ [Ban] told a news conference in Geneva.” (Reuters [dateline: Geneva], July 2, 2007)
In judging the merit of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s extraordinary claim of July 2, 2007, the first part of this analysis (http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article175.html) sought to provide an overview of the security conditions in Darfur and eastern Chad, based on the most recent assessments by humanitarian organizations on the ground, both UN and nongovernmental. This was meant to serve primarily as a supplement to my recent comprehensive overview of security issues as they affect civilians and humanitarians (“Human Security in Darfur and Eastern Chad: An Overview,” June 11, 2007:
The second part of this analysis assesses the diplomatic efforts around a still merely notional “peace process,” as well as the likelihood of efforts to negotiate a cease-fire (or at least a cease-fire more effective than the present meaningless agreement). No doubt most of what has been done in this arena has been done behind the scenes. But the available evidence is dismayingly persuasive that not nearly enough has been accomplished; that the “peace process” is hopelessly chaotic; and that despite the very recent effort (July 8, 2007) by UN special envoy Jan Eliasson to declare that “the moment of truth has arrived,” diplomatic confusion abounds and the Khartoum regime has been obliged to do nothing to make peace talks sufficiently attractive to Darfur’s rebel leaders. Cleaving insistently to the Darfur Peace Agreement—a thoroughly dead letter for all non-signatory rebel leaders of consequence—Khartoum is using the disastrous results of last May in Abuja to set the stage for indefinite delays.
The present analysis concludes with a survey of military options for near-term improvement of civilian and humanitarian security on the ground in Darfur and eastern Chad. The emphasis falls heavily on urgent deployment of civilian police to the most insecure IDP and refugee camps, on a rolling basis and with provision of necessary military protection.
THE PEACE PROCESS AND EFFORTS TO OBTAIN A CEASE-FIRE
“…credible and considerable progress in helping resolve this Darfur situation”—
Since UN Secretary-General Ban cannot possibly point to “progress” on the ground in addressing the security crisis in Darfur, or to improvement in the terrifying humanitarian picture in Darfur and eastern Chad, he is committed to the claim that the international community is moving ahead with a “peace process,” and that efforts are underway to provide protection in the form of a UN/AU “hybrid force”—a make-shift substitute for the large and robust force outlined almost a year ago in UN Security Council Resolution 1706 on the basis of UN Department of Peacekeeping recommendations. But given the poverty of actual achievement in improving security during Ban’s six months in office, we may reasonably have expected that concrete security agreements would be in place in the near term; that a clear schedule for deployment and command of security forces had been negotiated; and that a well-organized, decisively led negotiating team was prepared to work full-time in securing from the obdurate Khartoum regime a meaningful peace agreement.
Of course none of this exists. As Reuters’ exceedingly well-informed Opheera McDoom reports from Khartoum (July 7, 2007):
“Seven months into their mission, UN peace envoy Jan Eliasson and his AU counterpart Salim Ahmed Salim have made scant progress in bringing fractious rebel groups to the table, drawing accusations of foot dragging from aid groups and observers. [ ] The envoys have set a self-imposed August deadline to launch peace negotiations and have called an international meeting in Libya for July 15-16 to discuss their progress.” [ ]
“Those working in Darfur’s aid operation—the world’s largest—complain the envoys are only doing a ‘part-time job.’ Neither are based in Sudan and even Eliasson’s special assistant Pekka Haavisto, appointed to make up for his absence, does not live in the country. ‘One of the main concerns is the little time spent in country by the key players, considering the scale of the conflict,’ said one source in the aid community in Khartoum.”
Not only has little been achieved, but little is in prospect; indeed, Eliasson admitted three days ago (July 7, 2007) that the August deadline for peace negotiations would have to slip because of inadequate progress to date in negotiations with the rebel groups. David Mozersky of the International Crisis Group notes sharply that Salim and Eliasson “needed to be much more proactive to unify the rebel groups, broaden the negotiation base and get the government to agree to changes to last year’s peace deal. ‘It’s not clear what the…mediation team is actually doing to implement the steps they set out,’ Mozersky said. ‘The time that’s passing could have been spent more efficiently.’ [ ] ‘It seems unlikely [Salim and Eliasson] will be able to have talks in August… given the lack of progress on the rebel unification front.'” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], July 7, 2007)
In fact, an assessment a good deal harsher than Mozersky’s is warranted. There is no effective leadership of the international effort to provide a meaningful peace process in the wake of the disastrous agreement that emerged from Abuja, Nigeria last May. To be sure, there has been a welter of “conferences” and “initiatives”—in Paris, in Addis Ababa, in Accra, in Cairo, and several in Tripoli (the most recent this past April, the next scheduled for mid-July). But there is no plan, no “roadmap,” although a flimsy two-page document does exist with the absurdly overstated title of “Joint AU-UN Framework for a Road-map for the Darfur Political Process, DRAFT 10 May 2007: Work in Progress.” But this document is nothing more than a hasty assemblage of generalized exhortations and vague goals. It is holds no party accountable in any meaningful way, either in observing a cease-fire or seriously committing to peace negotiations.
It is worth remarking here the irony of Libya’s prominent place in negotiations involving peace in Darfur and eastern Chad: no regional actor (other than the Khartoum regime itself) has done more to instigate and support violence in the region than Muamar Ghaddafi. Ghaddafi certainly has no motives that bear scrutiny in attempting to insert himself into this process. Aside from his fanciful pan-Africanism, he wishes primarily to forestall any internationalizing of the Darfur/eastern Chad crisis—certainly to prevent militarily capable nations from intervening to halt genocide and ethnically-targeted human destruction.
The mutual contempt of Libya and Saudi Arabia—another would-be participant in the Darfur “peace process”—only highlights the absurd lack of leadership that should be the responsibility of those who have any serious hopes for such a process. So far, the evidence is that this does not include Secretary-General Ban, despite his unctuous words about Darfur’s primacy on his world agenda. Jan Eliasson, like Jan Pronk, the former special representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan, has proved ineffectual and ill-informed—and dismayingly part-time, as is his US counterpart, special Presidential envoy for Sudan Andrew Natsios.
And what of Khartoum’s response to this diplomatic bumbling? How likely is it that these ruthless survivalists will feel compelled to participate in a meaningful peace process under present circumstances? How likely is it that they will move from the obstructers of rebel unity to good-faith partners in negotiating an end to their genocidal counter-insurgency war in Darfur? How likely is it that they will accept and observe a credible cease-fire?
The news barely made it into the penultimate paragraph of a Reuters dispatch from the UN (May 25, 2007), but arguably tells us most about the subject of the dispatch: “UN-AU draw up plans for large Darfur force”:
“Sudan stopped bombing raids at the beginning of the year but on April 19, 21 and 23 , its air force hit three towns in North Darfur and prevented a meeting of rebel commanders [the regime] has encouraged to take place.”
In late May 2007, the Los Angeles Times reported (dateline: UN/New York):
“A week ago, aircraft believed to belong to the government bombed the site in northern Darfur where a unification conference sponsored by the African Union and the UN was to be held. There have been almost two dozen such incidents.” (May 25, 2007)
As the Los Angeles Times report suggests, military (and other) efforts to undermine rebel unification attempts are hardly a unique event, as this writer has insistently noted in the face of a perverse faith in Khartoum’s desire to see a united rebel negotiating front. Of course the regime will declare itself ready and willing to negotiate: “‘Any time they [the rebel groups] want the peace talks to start we have always been ready,’ [Khartoum’s foreign minister Lam] Akol told reporters. ‘The problem is with the other side'” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], June 18, 2007).
But while it is certainly true that the rebels are fractious, and increasingly irresponsible, their distrust of Khartoum is too well-founded, the regime’s record of bad faith and reneging too authoritatively established. Khartoum’s actions cannot be wished away by expedient diplomats:
“Sudanese forces bombed two rebel locations in Darfur just days after the head of the African Union’s peacekeeping force visited the area to urge the rebels to join a cease-fire agreement, the AU said yesterday [December 30, 2006]. A Sudanese government aircraft on Friday [December 29, 2006] bombed Anka and Um Rai in North Darfur province where Gen. Luke Aprezi had met on Wednesday [December 27, 2006] with rebels, an AU statement said. ‘When a bombing is made after I have visited an area, my credibility is involved,’ Aprezi told The Associated Press by telephone from Khartoum, Sudan’s capital. ‘To that group, I don’t have any credibility anymore.'”
“The incident jeopardizes efforts to bring additional groups into the cease-fire that a single rebel faction and the government signed in May 2006, the AU said. [ ] The AU obtained consent from Sudanese officials in Darfur and the capital ahead of meeting the rebels, it said in the statement. It called Friday’s [December 29, 2006] attack ‘a seriously disturbing development.'” (Associated Press dispatch [dateline: Khartoum], December 31, 2006)
For those who argue that a cease-fire is essential for progress in Darfur, these are defining actions: they reveal the Khartoum regime’s attitude too fully, and explain too much of why there is such deep mistrust on the part of not only the Darfur rebels but all Sudanese constituencies: none supports the National Islamic Front (National Congress Party), and all have learned over eighteen years that these brutal men will never abide by any agreement. A cease-fire for Darfur must have robust international guarantors, militarily capable and with appropriate rules of engagement: anything less will merely produce a reprise of the current, completely ineffectual “cease-fire.”
How much can Khartoum be trusted on other aspects of the Darfur crisis? The regime has reneged on at least half a dozen agreements to disarm its brutal Janjaweed militia forces, going back to a Joint Communiqu signed in Khartoum by NIF President Omar al-Bashir and Ban Ki-moon’s predecessor on July 3, 2004. Countless agreements concerning humanitarian access, delivery of equipment, and provision of visas have been abrogated. The regime has on a number of occasions painted its military aircraft a UN or African Union white—and then when confronted with indisputable photographic evidence of such egregious violation of international law by a UN Panel of Experts for Darfur, the regime simply lies, declaring the evidence a “fabrication.” Similarly, when Amnesty International and this same UN Panel of Experts presented overwhelming evidence of violations of the arms embargo for Darfur, Khartoum again simply declared the evidence to be fraudulent, contrived, mere “fabrication.”
Such habitual mendacity pervades Khartoum’s dealings with the international community, and would certainly do so in any “peace process,” any negotiations over a cease-fire, and any commitment to the improvement of humanitarian conditions and security on the ground in Darfur. The much celebrated “agreement” by Khartoum to allow for deployment of the UN/AU “hybrid force” is in fact meaningless, providing as it now stands ample opportunity for re-negotiation, for the setting of conditions (despite what has been credulously described as “unconditional” acceptance), and for eventual refusal through the ill-conceived “tripartite mechanism” (comprising the AU, the UN, but also the Khartoum regime). A telling vignette was provided by Lauren Landis of the US State Department:
“‘Although the government gives the big diplomatic “yes”…what we get on the ground is a lot of bureaucratic “nos,”‘ said Lauren Landis, the State Department’s senior representative to Sudan, who was in the country this month. ‘No to visas, no to leases of land, no to equipment—the backhoes are stuck in customs.'” (Los Angeles Times [dateline: UN/New York], May 25, 2007)
Nor has the international community learned sufficiently well the ways in which Khartoum will either agree in bad faith, or count on the endless possibilities that are engendered by documents expediently crafted. The issue of command-and-control of the AU/UN “hybrid force” provides a perfect example, one that seems destined to compromise deployment of this force indefinitely. The New York Times reported (June 6, 2007) on precisely the kind of ambiguity that Khartoum will exploit relentlessly:
“The original accord [between the UN and the AU], which had been endorsed by the [UN] Security Council, gave clear ultimate command to the United Nations. But the African Union raised objections and asked for ‘clarifications’ in the text. The new language, in a revised version delivered to the Security Council and the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, eliminates the reference and leaves vague how power will be divided. A senior United Nations official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity said the indeterminate phrasing was aimed at satisfying the Security Council that there was enough United Nations leadership to persuade troop-contributing countries to provide the necessary soldiers and equipment, and to convince the African Union and Sudan that there was enough African input at the top.” (UN/New York)
Out of such expediency, genocides are sustained.
Similarly, the question of the composition of the “hybrid force” has not been clearly determined. UN Undersecretary for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guehenno spoke of the UN’s making “every effort to preserve the African character of the mission” (UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) News Bulletin, June 14, 2007), but later declared that “suitable offers from African contributors will be given priority, but if there are not enough such offers, offers from outside Africa would be accepted” (UNMIS New Bulletin, July 1, 2007).
But of course there will “not be enough such offers from African contributors,” as Guehenno surely knows. There can be no quarreling with the blunt assessment of Gayle Smith of the Center for American Progress:
“Troops should be drawn from throughout the world, not just Africa. Given that current plans call for a mission of 17,500 – 19,500 troops and nearly 4,000 civilian police at a time when the demand for peacekeepers worldwide is on the rise, Africa is running up against limitations on its capacity to supply new troops. Therefore, troops should be drawn from anywhere, not just Africa as the Sudanese have suggested.” (ENOUGH press release, Washington, DC, June 27, 2007)
But Khartoum has consistently declared that it will accept only technical personnel that are not African—not troops or civilian police. That has not changed and yet the difference between what is needed and what Khartoum will accept continues to be papered over at the UN. Sooner or later—but certainly at a critical moment—this expedient failure to secure meaningful agreement will compromise human security in Darfur in consequential ways, as will issues of command-and-control: nations willing to contribute to a UN-led mission will not contribute to an AU-led force. Norway and Sweden, which had previously declared commitments of forces, have made this explicitly clear.
With precisely this in mind, Khartoum has already revealingly construed the ambiguous UN/AU “agreement” on command-and-control in ways that are guaranteed to undermine troop contributions from non-AU countries:
“Sudanese Foreign Minister Akol said all sides were in agreement over the command and control system for the AU-UN force. ‘The commander is African, Akol said. ‘The (command and control) structures that are followed by the UN are the ones that we have agreed would be adopted by the African Union.’ ‘So we say the command and control structures are the UN,’ he added.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], June 18, 2007)
In other words, if the AU agrees to mimic UN command-and-control structures, then they “are” UN command-and-control structures. Such semantic sleight-of-hand will ultimately prove to be much more than verbal disagreement. But neither Undersecretary Guehenno nor Secretary-General Ban nor special envoy Eliasson seems interested in these discomfiting details.
This inattention to critical details does not characterize the rebel groups, which are increasingly blamed for the diplomatic incompetence of the UN and the broader international community. And while there is much with which to reproach some of the rebel groups (primarily, however, the SLA faction of Minni Minawi, the brutal thug who was the only signatory to the Darfur Peace Agreement with Khartoum), they are hardly open to criticism for demanding that the UN “‘should put more pressure on the Khartoum government and not rely on Khartoum’s statements alone,'” (this from senior Sudan Liberation Army commander Ahmed Abdel Shafie) (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], June 17, 2007). Jar al-Naby, perhaps the most important and trustworthy of the rebel commanders, was equally blunt about the issue of control-and-command of the “hybrid force”:
“‘This is a good step,’ said Jar el-Neby Abdelkarim, leader of a large rebel faction in Darfur. ‘Forces to protect the people are always a good thing.’ ‘But we reject any African Union control over these forces. They are weak logistically and inexperienced. The United Nations has to have command and control,’ he told Reuters by telephone from Darfur.” (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], June 16, 2007)
The upshot of peace and security developments over the past six months represents nothing remotely like “credible and considerable progress in resolving the Darfur crisis.” There is still no clear peace process, only vague hopes and a motley crew of regional and international actors, and part-time envoys—both from the UN and the United States. Jan Eliasson, in declaring that the “moment of truth for Darfur is imminent,” is largely reduced to vague exhortation:
“‘Get ready for negotiations, prepare for negotiations, and to all others…try now to coordinate all initiatives.'” (Agence France Presse [dateline: Khartoum], July 8, 2007)
This is hardly a “road map,” but rather a desperate hope that simply convening some of the parties will bring a coordinated approach. But Egypt, Libya, and Eritrea have all played spoiler roles before. Their “initiatives” may well proliferate. And having secured nothing from Khartoum, not even a declared willingness to consider the most egregiously inadequate features of the Darfur Peace Agreement, Eliasson is asking for talks to commence with no common negotiating ground between the regime and the rebels.
At the same time, international movement towards any effective protection force on the ground in Darfur, or eastern Chad, or the desperate Central African Republic, is glacial. And efforts at pressuring Khartoum to act and negotiate in good faith are failing miserably—in no small measure because of Ban Ki-moon’s absurdly excessive praising of Chinese efforts on Darfur. Bronwen Maddox of The Times (London) put the matter best, declaring (June 27, 2007):
“When Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, said that China had played a ‘constructive role’ in the process, and that he was ‘satisfied’ with its contribution, he was being polite to the point of dissembling, or has standards which are inhumanely low.”
China continues to deny the essential features of human destruction and suffering in Darfur, expediently painting a grossly inaccurate picture of realities on the ground; China refuses to countenance even the possibility of UN sanctions to pressure a defiant Khartoum; and Beijing engages in ever larger commercial investment in an economy that supports primarily this genocidal security cabal, most recently in an enormous deal to search for oil and gas on the coast of the Red Sea (BBC, July 2, 2007).
With such support from China, implicit and explicit, what is the likelihood of near-term progress in peace negotiations between the rebel groups and Khartoum’s gnocidaires? As Reuters quite accurately reports, “the [Khartoum] government has made clear it will not reopen the 2006 peace deal [the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA)] during new talks, leaving little diplomatic space for the fresh peace process” ([dateline: Khartoum], July 7, 2008). The rebels who did not sign the Darfur Peace Agreement in May 2006 have made clear their strong objection to a number of its provisions—including power-sharing, compensation, and security arrangements—and are seeking something much closer to the north/south peace agreement of January 2005 (the so-called “Comprehensive Peace Agreement”). The chasm between these two negotiating starting points is vast, and Khartoum’s insistence on cleaving to the terms of the DPA ensures that talks, if they commence, will be prolonged.
WHAT IS NEEDED ON THE GROUND
But even as the best diplomatic prospect is for prolonged negotiations between Khartoum and the rebel groups that agree to participate in talks, Darfur, eastern Chad, and Central African Republic are all poised to tip into utter catastrophe, with potentially cataclysmic loss of human life. Indeed, it has become inescapably clear that security arrangements for Darfur must also take into account the dire needs of eastern Chad and CAR. Without urgent provision of much enhanced security, humanitarian organizations in Darfur will remain poised on the very cusp of withdrawal or suspension. A single incident could have massive repercussions; a series of orchestrated incidents could easily compel virtually total evacuation. In any event, the areas inaccessible to all humanitarian assistance continue to grow in size, and more than 1 million of the 4.7 million conflict-affected civilians in Darfur and eastern Chad are completely beyond humanitarian reach. This number is set to grow dramatically, as the onset of the heaviest part of the rainy season is only now beginning.
As Julie Flint has rightly argued in a recent opinion piece in The New York Times (July 5, 2007), a “No Fly Zone” over Darfur is both impracticable and potentially dangerous for civilians and humanitarians. The same is true for any “stand-off” military response to Khartoum’s continuing genocidal counter-insurgency campaign. But her implicit conflation of a “No Fly Zone” and all other “coercive” military measures is deeply misguided, and fails to acknowledge the clear and present dangers to what she describes as the “one bright light” in the international response to Darfur, viz. humanitarian relief efforts. In mid-January 2007, all fourteen UN operational humanitarian organizations in Darfur declared, in an open letter, that they faced intolerable security risks and that their efforts were in danger of collapsing; even the vast World Food Program signed the letter. The following week a number of distinguished nongovernmental humanitarian organizations released a letter very similar in tenor. (See my “Understanding Genocide in Darfur: The View from Khartoum,” January 26, 2007 at http://www.sudanreeves.org/Article150.html)
If these organizations withdraw or suspend operations, there will surely be unprecedented human destruction, which could easily see total human mortality in the region exceed 1 million human beings by the end of the year (see my two-part April/May 2006 mortality assessment for Darfur, presenting data suggesting that approximately 500,000 people have died from violence and war-related disease and malnutrition since the outbreak of major fighting in February 2003:
Ms. Flint declares self-righteously that to “endanger the region’s humanitarian lifeline is not simply wrong-headed. It is inhumane.” But equally “inhumane” is to allow present intolerable levels of insecurity to “endanger” this lifeline, and here Ms. Flint offers no meaningful suggestions. For this insecurity certainly cannot be remedied by means of her only proffered military suggestion: “strengthening” the African Union force currently deployed. This force is badly equipped, badly led, internally dysfunctional, without adequate logistical, transport, or communications capacity, and without requisite intelligence-gathering capability. Administrative capacity in Addis Ababa is disastrous, budgeting is opaque, and there are growing reports of financial corruption. For all these reasons morale within the AU force on the ground is abysmal, and all performance measures show disastrous declines. Moreover, nearly all Darfuris now deeply distrust the AU, and see it as having sided with the regime in Khartoum; the same view is held by the rebels.
The African Union has failed in Darfur, and no amount of “strengthening” can do more than modestly mitigate this failure. Of course the AU should be supported as much as possible, and provided with all the resources it can effectively absorb. And the AU should be celebrated for attempting what no other member of the international community would. But this is not a remotely adequate answer to Darfur’s security crisis, or to the immense security crisis in eastern Chad. To pretend otherwise is both “wrong-headed” and “inhumane” in failing to take seriously the high level of threat to humanitarian operations and civilian populations.
In the clear absence of international will for non-consensual deployment of protection forces, and given the perversely dilatory time-frame for deployment of the UN/AU “hybrid force,” some third strategy must be sought. Unfortunately, the massive efforts to resuscitate Security Council Resolution 1706 (August 31, 2006) in the form of this “hybrid force” have consumed virtually all military planning, even as there is still no real clarity about the command-and-control or the make-up or the timing for deployment of this force. Rarely has so much been expended diplomatically on so little.
What would make a significant difference on the ground in Darfur, in the near term, would be urgently expedited deployment of the civilian police units contemplated in the “hybrid force,” which is probably a year off, perhaps more. Such civilian police units should be deployed, with adequate military protection, to the most insecure camps for Internally Displaced Persons: Gereida in South Darfur, camps around Tawilla and Kutum in North Darfur, the radically insecure camps in West Darfur, especially in the el-Geneina and Zalingei areas, as well as the large camps around Nyala and el-Fasher.
The camps themselves are cauldrons of rage and despair—and increasingly awash in arms. The AU civilian police are weak and quite inadequate in number, and dare not enter most of the camps—this even as authority within the camps is deteriorating, and internal tensions and violence are rising. The presence of civilian police, if they were confident of military protection, could do a great deal to restore order in the camps and their environs; firewood protection patrols could be resumed and increased for women and girls presently facing the terrible risk of rape; humanitarian organizations would be working in safer environments; security could gradually be extended and the confidence of displaced persons significantly increased. Eventually, control of el-Geneina could be restored to civilian authority (the Janjaweed are currently the unchallenged masters of the capital of West Darfur), and Nyala and el-Fasher could be made safer for residents and the humanitarian workers who reside there.
There is obviously much that such a deployment of civilian police could not accomplish. There are simply too many IDP camps for all to be offered protection, and civilian police would have very limited abilities to protect humanitarian convoys (although both of these tasks are explicitly contemplated in the supposed agreement on a “hybrid force”). Civilian police could not disarm or even confront most combatants, and would need backup from well-armed military personnel with a mandate to provide all necessary protection to the police. There should be an urgent dispatch of the six helicopter gunships that are part of the “heavy support package” to the AU that is supposedly now underway. Deployment of civilian police, if it were to begin soon, would have to be on a rolling basis—there is simply too much that is required logistically even for the relatively light foot-print of civilian police. Deployment should be in units adequate to the demands of particular locations (perhaps the highest priority should be Gereida in South Darfur, from which the aid agency Oxfam has just announced its permanent withdrawal—see Part 1).
OBSTACLES TO DEPLOYMENT OF CIVILIAN POLICE CONTINGENTS
Civilian police are not available in large numbers from the African Union, and must be trained on an emergency basis. They must also be supplemented by non-AU civilian police. In the view of one experienced military expert, with extensive experience in Darfur and the region,
“The biggest impediment is availability of qualified personnel. This could be offset by a crash training initiative sponsored by the UN, AU, or even EU at one of the African training centers or perhaps even the Center of Excellence for Special Police Units (COESPU) run by the Italians in Vicenza. The most significant issue I see here is that a good percentage of the police need to be African and to a lesser degree but still significantly important must be women.” (confidential email to this writer, received July 9, 2007)
But it is not simply training AU civilian police; the current effort in Darfur requires a significant change in the AU view of the importance of civilian police. A highly authoritative report by the Brookings Institution and Bern University (“The Protecting of Two Million Internally Displaced: The Successes and Shortcomings of the African Union in Darfur,” November 2005, at http://www.brookings.edu/fp/projects/idp/200511_au_darfur.pdf), placed particular emphasis on the AU’s shortcomings in this critical arena:
“[The AU only belatedly] realized the importance of stationing competent, well-trained police officers in and near the IDP camps. One UN official familiar with the AU start-up mission said, ‘The AU had no clue on police issues. They said there was no major role for police and they never even would have considered a police component if the UN had not recommended it.’ The AU had never had a police component before. They had no operational plan or recruiting criteria. The UN Civilian Police Division in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations offered a concept of operations and guidelines on recruiting, training, logistics and deployment. The UN even shared its roster of African police that had peacekeeping experience, but the AU did not take advantage of this valuable resource.”
“AMIS [African Union Mission in Sudan] police, who are not armed, arrived slowly and it was only in February 2005 that a significant number started to deploy. Coming from many different countries with different policing traditions, forging a unified team is difficult. The language barrier is significant. [ ] Some experts believe that the quality of the AMIS police is not adequate. Their expertise and experience is not what is required for such a difficult mission. There is little screening of applicants prior to deployment, and according to one police expert, the AU ‘has not even developed the desired profile and criteria they are looking for in their police.'” (pages 18-19)
The report also noted that AMIS Civilian Police “suffer from severe communications problems, which, if anything, are worse than AMIS military must endure”; “one AMIS police sector cannot communicate directly with another” (page 20).
These deficiencies have not been nearly adequately remedied in the intervening 20 months; on the contrary, ineffectual AU civilian police are now more deeply mistrusted, resented, even hated by the very civilians they are charged with protecting. A profound shift must occur in the nature of the civilian police force deploying, as well as in the mandate guiding policing actions: AU civilian police have had no independent enforcement authority, and are able only to monitor and accompany Sudanese police, many of these now former Janjaweed militia members.
Critically, civilian police will be able to deploy with protection, and this is where pressure must urgently be exerted upon Khartoum. The regime must be compelled to accept expedited deployment of large, well-protected contingents from the almost 4,000 civilian police contemplated in the “hybrid force,” to which Khartoum has nominally given its consent. It there is refusal to accept these civilian police contingents, and the necessary protection forces, then it will be clear now that these gnocidaires never had any intention of allowing for deployment of the “hybrid force.” However belated such recognition, it will be highly salutary for the international community to confront this reality now rather than a year from now.
The key player in exerting greater pressure on the Khartoum regime is of course China, which has gone through various diplomatic motions, but is still deeply complicit in the Darfur genocide. Indeed, there is a ghastly congruence in the view from Khartoum:
“[National Islamic Front President and Field Marshal Omar al-Bashir] insist[ed] that ‘most of Darfur’s region is safe.’ ‘The situation on the ground in Darfur is improving. Now IDPs [internally displaced persons] are voluntarily returning to their villages.'” (Agence France Press [dateline: Khartoum], July 1, 2007)
and the view from Beijing:
“My general impression is that the current situation in Darfur is basically stable, the local government runs normally, the refugees camps are well managed with sound health conditions and the basic living of refugees is guaranteed. [ ] According to the local people, the security situation in Darfur is generally improved, especially after the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement and crimes decreased considerably.” (Assistant Foreign Minister Zhai Jun on his trip to Darfur, transcript from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Beijing, April 12, 2007)
If Beijing will not acknowledge the massive humanitarian and security crisis in Darfur, it is hardly likely to pressure Khartoum to allow expedited deployment of civilian police and the protection they would require. This in turn makes clear the importance of international grass-roots efforts to confront China with a stark choice: “Use your unrivaled leverage with Khartoum to secure immediate and verifiable improvements in security on the ground, or face the prospect of hosting what will be known historically as the ‘Genocide Olympics.'”
Indeed, the need for pressure on China could not be more conspicuous, something recognized by former UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland:
“‘We should have had a wider coalition in the beginning [in pressuring Khartoum over Darfur] and I blame myself for not going to Beijing more and less to [the US] Congress.'” (Reuters [dateline: UN/New York], May 22, 2007)
But instead of accepting the logic of Egeland’s excessively self-critical assessment, Ban Ki-moon pronounces himself “satisfied” with what he describes as China’s “constructive role.” Such “satisfaction” will no doubt please Beijing, an obstructionist force on the UN Security Council; but for Darfur, it works to convince China’s rulers that they need do little more than continue with their diplomatic minimalism. Certainly there will be no support for more aggressive efforts to pressure Khartoum to accept expedited civilian police deployment.
Such deployment would necessarily be on a rolling basis, as resources and appropriate personnel were committed or trained; they should deploy first to those camps and locations where civilian policing could do most to protect civilians and humanitarians. Again, Gereida in South Darfur, camps around Tawilla and Kutum in North Darfur, the radically insecure camps in West Darfur, especially in the el-Geneina and Zalingei areas, as well as the large and increasingly unstable camps around Nyala and el-Fasher should have the very highest priority.
Further planning and operational details of civilian police deployment will be articulated in subsequent analyses. A similar deployment of civilian police and military protection is equally urgent for eastern Chad. And in the absence of extremely urgent action, Central African Republic is likely to tip into complete chaos, with immensely destructive consequences (see the recent Amnesty International Report, “Central African Republic: Law and order collapsing as civilians flee violence and killings,” June 26, 2007, at http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAFR190022007).
But decisions about human and humanitarian security in Darfur cannot be put off; they cannot be held hostage to what will inevitably be prolonged peace negotiations, if such ever begin; and they must not be allowed to be rejected by the very regime that is directly responsible not only for genocidal destruction, but for the ongoing security crisis that continues to claim lives and livelihoods by the tens of thousands.
To be sure, it will be difficult to move a UN Secretariat that is content to believe that there has over the past six months been “credible and considerable progress in helping resolve this Darfur situation.” And the countries that have postured most shamelessly on Darfur—particularly the US and the UK—will be difficult to engage in serious commitments to provide resources for improved security in the near term. Just as difficult will be overcoming the deliberate conflation of various attempts to address the security crisis in Darfur, efforts such as those by Julie Flint and Alex de Waal (Justice Africa), who seem incapable of imagining that any sort of force on the ground in Darfur will provide protection to those most desperately in need. But the voices from Darfur, from the camps, from eastern Chad, from civilians throughout the greater humanitarian theater, now including Central African Republic, are all urgently one: “Protect us, protect us and our families!” The cry is painfully simple, direct, anguished. A fifth year of genocidal counter-insurgency warfare proceeds, and still this cry is not heard.