Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Darfur - The killing continues (Economist & Washington Post)

As the Washington Post editorial correctly observes:

It's been more than three weeks since a Darfur peace accord was signed, bringing hope for an end to the genocide in Sudan's western territory. Since then the news has been terrible. The two rebel factions that refused to sign the peace deal have continued to snub it. Violence between rebel factions has generated blood-curdling attacks on civilians. Human Rights Watch has reported fresh evidence of atrocities committed by government-backed Janjaweed death squads across the border in Chad. The cash-strapped U.N. World Food Program has been forced to reduce the already meager rations it distributes to 6 million Sudanese, including 3 million in Darfur. And Sudan's government has waffled on the crucial question of whether it will allow in an expanded peacekeeping force, without which violence, hunger and mass death are likely to continue. [....]
The U.S. government has described the killing in Darfur as genocide, a term that Sudan's government rejects and that the United Nations and Europeans have also shrunk from using. The more that the conflict in Darfur features infighting between rebel factions rather than just atrocities by the government's militia, the more observers may resist pointing the finger at the government and accusing it of genocide. But the reason that Sudan's government is culpable, today as in the past, is that it is deliberately creating the conditions in which thousands of civilians from rebel-aligned tribes are likely to die. First the government and its militia drove these people from their villages. Then it impeded humanitarian workers so that thousands of them fell prey to disease or starved. Now it is obstructing a serious peacekeeping deployment, with the result that its victims will continue to face shortages of medicines and food.
This may not be genocide by gas chamber or machete. But it is still a calculated policy of targeting ethnic groups and planning, meticulously, to eliminate them.

--Jeff Weintraub

===============
The Economist
June 1, 2006

Sudan
Still fiddling while it burns
Peacemakers must hurry up

Will the United Nations ever deploy a force into Sudan's violent western region of Darfur? It seemed a certainty only a month ago, when Sudan's government signed an agreement in Abuja, Nigeria's capital, with Darfur's main rebel group; Sudanese ministers had, after all, promised to consider a force only after such a peace had been signed. But in the intervening weeks, little has actually happened.

The main obstacle remains the Sudanese government in Khartoum. Despite vague promises, its ministers still sound cool, if not actively hostile, to the prospect of having UN troops in Darfur. Last week, it took three days of aggressive diplomacy by a UN envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, to persuade Sudan's government to let just a small UN team into Darfur to reconnoitre for a larger deployment. As The Economist went to press, even that team had not yet been allowed in. Furthermore, the Sudanese government has also made it clear that even if the assessment mission does get into Darfur, that would not necessarily lead to allowing a full UN force in.

Instead, the government in Khartoum would prefer more support to be given to the current 7,000-strong African Union (AU) force in Darfur. The AU has gallantly tried to enforce a previous ceasefire agreement that was agreed upon in 2004, but its efforts have been blighted by a lack of equipment, money and manpower. Last week the AU's vulnerability was shown up once again when one soldier was killed and five wounded in two separate attacks on its patrols.

In practice, any UN force that did go into Darfur would probably incorporate part of the AU force. That might allay Sudanese worries about a Western, Christian force holding sway in Muslim Darfur. Just as important, it would also provide the new UN force with sorely needed soldiers.

Boots on the ground

UN planners assume they will need up to 20,000-odd troops, probably the largest peacekeeping force in the world. As the government in Khartoum prevaricates, efforts to raise the numbers have begun. The hope is that most of the troops will be redeployed from existing UN operations in Africa. Elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo should be over by the end of July, releasing thousands from the 17,000-strong mission there; troops could also be switched from Liberia. Norway's government has offered about 200 logistical staff; Ireland's is considering whether to move a unit from Liberia to stiffen a UN force for Darfur. Most promisingly, some Arab countries, Jordan to the fore, have reportedly offered to contribute. Indonesia has offered some 1,000 armed policemen and America has repeated its pledge to commit NATO forces for logistical support as well.

In Darfur, meanwhile, all the armed groups are making use of this hiatus before any new UN force arrives to grab any advantage. The janjaweed, the Sudanese government's militias, have burned villages and the main rebel group has attacked civilians too. On top of that, two minor rebel groups have ignored the deadline for signing up to the peace deal in Abuja. The sooner the UN arrives, the better. But it still seems to be a question of if, not when.

===============
Washington Post
Tuesday, May 30, 2006; A16


Still a Genocide
There should be no ambiguity about Darfur.

It's been more than three weeks since a Darfur peace accord was signed, bringing hope for an end to the genocide in Sudan's western territory. Since then the news has been terrible. The two rebel factions that refused to sign the peace deal have continued to snub it. Violence between rebel factions has generated blood-curdling attacks on civilians. Human Rights Watch has reported fresh evidence of atrocities committed by government-backed Janjaweed death squads across the border in Chad. The cash-strapped U.N. World Food Program has been forced to reduce the already meager rations it distributes to 6 million Sudanese, including 3 million in Darfur. And Sudan's government has waffled on the crucial question of whether it will allow in an expanded peacekeeping force, without which violence, hunger and mass death are likely to continue.

The only external force at present is a 7,000-strong African Union contingent. It is too small and ill-equipped to cover a territory the size of France, and its mandate allows it to monitor violence but not actually stop it. Gunmen in Darfur have learned that it is toothless. Even the displaced civilians whom the African Union is trying to help have staged violent demonstrations against the force out of frustration with its shortcomings. There is no way that this contingent can oversee the implementation of Darfur's peace treaty, which envisages the complex demobilization of combatants and the eventual repatriation of some 2 million displaced people. Recognizing this, the African Union has agreed to fold its soldiers into a larger U.N. peacekeeping force.

After much prevarication, Sudan's government appeared to agree last Thursday to allow in a team of U.N. military planners. But that concession came just a day after the speaker of Sudan's parliament ruled out a foreign deployment in Darfur, and it was undermined by the foreign minister's simultaneous statement that "any forces, if that is agreed upon, would be a force for supervision and not a force for peace implementation." In a repeat of its tactics toward humanitarian workers, Sudan's regime plainly means to stall peacekeepers for as long as possible -- and never mind that the aid workers and peacekeepers are trying to save the lives of Sudanese civilians.

The U.S. government has described the killing in Darfur as genocide, a term that Sudan's government rejects and that the United Nations and Europeans have also shrunk from using. The more that the conflict in Darfur features infighting between rebel factions rather than just atrocities by the government's militia, the more observers may resist pointing the finger at the government and accusing it of genocide. But the reason that Sudan's government is culpable, today as in the past, is that it is deliberately creating the conditions in which thousands of civilians from rebel-aligned tribes are likely to die. First the government and its militia drove these people from their villages. Then it impeded humanitarian workers so that thousands of them fell prey to disease or starved. Now it is obstructing a serious peacekeeping deployment, with the result that its victims will continue to face shortages of medicines and food.

This may not be genocide by gas chamber or machete. But it is still a calculated policy of targeting ethnic groups and planning, meticulously, to eliminate them.

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