Darfur: Will there be anyone left to save?

Dec 23, 2010 | Uncategorized

Universe Column July 29th 2007
For four years, as perhaps as many as 400,000 people have been killed in Darfur, the Government of Sudan has cynically manipulated the international community. While playing fast and loose on promises to allow effective peacekeeping, the Janjaweed militia have simply got on with finishing the genocide they started. By the time the peacekeepers are finally allowed in to Darfur there may well be very few people left alive to protect.
The horrors of Darfur have made a mockery of the United Nation’s self proclaimed doctrine of “the duty to protect” – and where has our appeasement left those who said that after the one million deaths in Rwanda we would intervene whenever and wherever genocide happened again.
It is nearly four years since the start of the Darfur crisis. Over 2 million people – nearly one in three in Darfur – have had to flea their homes and live frail lives as internally Displaced People in sprawling camps; a further 230,000
Refugees have fled to Chad; and up to 4 million people – more than half of Darfur’s entire population – are now reliant on humanitarian aid.
While the Janjaweed militia’s reign of terror has relied on plunder, rape, and bullets that have been all to real, too often the international community has responded by firing blanks – a litany of endless failed initiatives, lapsed deadlines, and security council resolutions that have not been implemented.
Last month yet another agreement was made with the Government of Sudan. The Addis Ababa talks were just the latest version of “peace in our times.”
Within days, Liam Akol the Sudanese Foreign Minister was denying reports that they had agreed to UN command of the hybrid (African Union and United Nations)force. Instead, he said that the operations on the ground will be run by the AU with merely the assistance of the UN in command and control structures.
At Addis Ababa it was stated that the Sudanese would no longer insist that only African troops would be allowed to serve in the peacekeeping force. Within days Sudanese officials were saying the opposite.
The President, Omar al-Bashir, was quoted as saying that the forces “will be commanded by the AU and its troops would mainly come from African countries”. He added that “only technical and civilian personnel could be sent by non-African countries to join the peacekeeping force”.
If Khartoum insists that African troops make up all except the advisory positions in the force then they are basically ruling out a force altogether because there simply aren’t enough suitable African forces available – and they know that.
China, Pakistan and India have expressed interest in contributing troops to the hybrid force, as has Denmark and the Netherlands. Unless these offers are taken on, there is little chance for the hybrid force to be deployed to its full capacity and to carry out its mission effectively. Khartoum knows this and will use this to undermine the force.
But worst of all is the absence of a clear timetable for the deployment of the force. The new force is not expected to be sent until next year and in the meantime the Sudanese Government is given a free hand to pursue its military campaign in Darfur..
The recent statements by Sudanese officials cast new doubts on the commitment of Khartoum to the agreement on the hybrid force. Khartoum has a history of backtracking on its agreements, and playing deadline diplomacy, as it did after initially accepting the full UN deployment in earlier talks at Addis Ababa, in November 2006.
Under the cover of the prevarication and procrastination the slaughter and the horror has simply got worse.
There have been 300,000 new Internally Displaced People in the past 6 months and the humanitarian situation remains appalling. It isis dominoeing into neighbouring countries like Chad and the Central African Republic..
Chad will become worse as more people flee Darfur.
And they have continued cause to flee Darfur.
Following a recent four-day visit to Gereida in South Darfur, UNMIS (the United Nations Mission in Sudan) deplored the worsening of the security situation in the town. In particular, the UNMIS team found that Janjaweed attacks outside towns were ongoing and women were still subject to rape and harassment.
As a result of this deteriorating situation, Oxfam announced that it was withdrawing permanently from Gereida.
In a coordinated attack on three aid agency bases in Gereida an aid worker was raped, an Oxfam staff member badly beaten and others subjected to mock executions.
“Despite our repeated requests, none of the perpetrators have been held to account, none of the assets stolen in the attack have been returned, and we have not received credible assurances that similar attacks would not take place if we did return,” said Caroline Nursey, Oxfam’s Sudan programme manager.
Last month the UN’s humanitarian chief Manuel Aranda Da Silva said that the descent into anarchy in Darfur has deteriorated further and endangering both the delivery of humanitarian aid and hampering peace keeping:
“The security … is worse today than it has ever been “, he said.
How many more broken deadlines and how many more failed initiatives do there have to be? How many more times will we be told the situation has worsened, before the agony of Darfur is brought to an end? And if the genocide continues unabated who will there be left to save?

Lord David Alton

For 18 years David Alton was a Member of the House of Commons and today he is an Independent Crossbench Life Peer in the UK House of Lords.

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