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The AU's Mission in Darfur: Bridging the Gaps
The AU's Mission in Darfur: Bridging the Gaps
Table of Contents
  1. Overview
Kofi Annan’s Lessons in Global Leadership
Kofi Annan’s Lessons in Global Leadership
Briefing 28 / Africa

The AU's Mission in Darfur: Bridging the Gaps

The international community is failing in its responsibility to protect the inhabitants of Darfur, many of whom are still dying or face indefinite displacement from their homes. New thinking and bold action are urgently needed.

I. Overview

The international community is failing in its responsibility to protect the inhabitants of Darfur, many of whom are still dying or face indefinite displacement from their homes. New thinking and bold action are urgently needed. The consensus to support a rough doubling of the African Union (AU) force to 7,731 troops by the end of September 2005 under the existing mandate is an inadequate response to the crisis. The mandate must be strengthened to prioritise civilian protection, and a force level of at least 12,000 to 15,000 is needed urgently now, not in nearly a year as currently envisaged.

This requires more courageous thinking by the AU, NATO, the European Union (EU), the UN and the U.S. to get adequate force levels on the ground in Darfur with an appropriate civilian protection mandate as quickly as possible, which in practical terms means within the next two months. Otherwise, security will continue to deteriorate, the hope that displaced inhabitants will ever return home will become even more distant, and prospects for a political settlement will remain dim.

While the UN and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have taken the lead in responding to growing humanitarian needs and authorising accountability measures against those responsible for atrocities, the AU has the lead for reaching a political solution to the conflict and monitoring the humanitarian and ceasefire agreements. The AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) has had a positive impact on security in some areas by often going beyond the strict terms of its mandate -- but its ability to protect civilians and humanitarian operations is hamstrung by limited capacity, insufficient resources and political constraints.

The assumption that the Sudanese government will fulfil its responsibilities and continued reliance on its cooperation as a pre-requisite for action against the militias with which it is allied are egregious self-deceptions. Khartoum's interest in seeking a lasting solution to the conflict is disingenuous, and it has systematically flouted numerous commitments to rein in its proxy militias -- collectively known as the Janjaweed. It has consistently opted for cosmetic efforts aimed at appeasing international pressure, minimised the political dimensions of the conflict, and inflamed ethnic divisions to achieve military objectives.

Equally flawed is the concept that the atrocities are African-only problems that require African-only solutions. The well-documented abuses that continue to occur demand broader and more robust international efforts aimed at enhancing the AU's ability to lead. In view of the Sudanese government's abdication of its sovereign duty and to the extent that the AU cannot adequately protect Sudan's civilians, the broader international community has a responsibility to do so.

Civilian protection needs to become the primary objective. Crisis Group recommends the following immediate steps, building on AU efforts, to deploy a multinational military force with sufficient size, operational capacity and mandate:

  • agree on a stronger mandate. The AU must strengthen AMIS's mandate to enable and encourage it to undertake all necessary measures, including offensive action, against any attacks or threats to civilians and humanitarian operations, whether from militias operating with the government or from the rebels. Without a stronger mandate, the ability of AMIS -- or any other international force -- to provide protection will remain extremely limited, regardless of its size;
     
  • recognise that many more troops are needed. 12,000-15,000 should, in Crisis Group's estimate, be on the ground now to protect villages against further attack or destruction, displaced persons (IDPs) against forced repatriation and intimidation, and women from systematic rape outside the camps, as well as to provide security for humanitarian operations and neutralise the government-supported militias that prey on civilians;
     
  • support a much more rapid reinforcement of AMIS. The current AU plan is to reach 7,731 -- including 1,560 civilian police -- by September 2005. The AU believes this relatively small force could largely stabilise the situation and that it might then need to go up to 12,300 by the second quarter of 2006 in order also to facilitate the eventual return of the displaced to their homes. Crisis Group believes even the latter number is at the low end of what is required first to provide stability in a still lethal situation, that these troops need to be appropriately equipped, trained and of a quality to undertake a dangerous civilian protection mission and that the AU should consequently approve and commence an immediate increase in AMIS to 12,000-plus highly ready personnel, to be in-country within 60 days. The need for civilian police is especially urgent;
     
  • provide strong, immediate international support. To meet these objectives, the UN, EU and NATO must offer the AU additional help in force preparation, deployment, sustainment, intelligence, command and control, communications and tactical (day and night) mobility, including the deployment of their own assets and personnel to meet capability gaps as needed;
     
  • develop a Bridging Force Option. If the AU cannot meet these objectives -- numbers and quality of troops, and time -- NATO should work closely with the AU to deploy its own bridging force and bring the total force up to 12,000 to 15,000 within 60 days and maintain it at that level until the AU can perform the mission entirely with its own personnel. The AU should agree that until such time, its units would come under command and control of the NATO mission. The UN Security Council should authorise the mission with a civilian protection mandate but if it does not, the AU and NATO would need to assume the responsibility and agree on an appropriate mandate. If the Sudanese government does not accept such a mission, NATO and the AU would need to prepare a much larger one to operate in a non-permissive environment; and
     
  • enforce the Security Council ban on offensive military flights. The AU and NATO should agree on enforcement measures to be applied if Khartoum violates the prohibition in UN Security Council Resolution 1591.

Nairobi/Brussels, 6 July 2005

Kofi Annan’s Lessons in Global Leadership

Originally published in Project Syndicate

Sadly, principled statesmen and women who can forge bold, morally consistent responses to today's global problems are in short supply. We must therefore safeguard and promote the virtues that the former UN secretary-general embodied.

The world is facing a set of acute crises without recent parallel: a war in Europe that could escalate into a nuclear conflict, skyrocketing food prices that are hitting the poor the hardest, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the climate emergency. We need principled statesmen and women to forge bold, morally consistent responses to these and other global problems. Sadly, such leaders are in short supply.

Many politicians prefer to advocate polarizing policies, avoid hard choices, and deny the scale of the threats at hand. Others have tried to address these issues honestly. But those who favor cooperation and solidarity in dealing with global threats are on the defensive, as last year’s underwhelming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow and grossly unequal global access to COVID-19 vaccines clearly illustrate.

In times like these, we should recognize and honor those leaders who do try to tackle global challenges responsibly and constructively. Twenty-five years ago, one such figure, Kofi Annan, became UN secretary-general at another moment of global disorder, amid the political uncertainty and regional conflicts that followed the end of the Cold War. Although he could not have known it then, the UN system would soon face the traumas of 9/11 and the Iraq War.

Kofi led the UN with humanity and strategic vision. He revolutionized international development programming by launching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the precursor of today’s Sustainable Development Goals. He built innovative partnerships such as the Global Fund – which brings together civil society, the private sector, and international agencies – to combat HIV/AIDS. He oversaw the dispatch of UN peacekeepers to stabilize and rebuild weak states, like Liberia, and help build new ones, like Timor-Leste. And he ushered in the idea of an international “responsibility to protect” the vulnerable from mass atrocities.

[Kofi Annan seeked] to make [the UN] more open, inclusive, and transparent.

As the UN’s administrator, Kofi cared deeply about the institution where he had spent most of his working life, seeking to make it more open, inclusive, and transparent. He was also the first secretary-general to develop a link between the UN and the private sector, and strongly supported civil society.

Moreover, he urged the major powers to reform the Security Council to reflect post-Cold War realities. He would not have been surprised by the Council’s current inaction over Ukraine, although it would not have deterred him from doing all he could to halt the conflict.

As a public figure, Kofi enjoyed a level of global recognition and respect that most national leaders he worked with could only envy. This was partly because he had a decency and instinctive respect for others that struck all those who met him. He brought out the best in his colleagues and could laugh with them – and at himself – even in moments of high pressure. He connected easily with young people, inspiring them and giving them hope. While UN officials respectfully referred to “Mr. Annan,” to many, including us, he was simply “Kofi.”

In addition to his personal qualities, Kofi grounded his leadership in certain basic principles. One of these was a deep respect for the rules and institutions of the post-war international order, reflected in the UN Charter, which he saw as undergirding peace and security.

This does not mean that he was always cautious. Although he could be pragmatic when necessary, he also took risks. In 1998, he traveled to Baghdad to meet with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in an effort to avert war in the Middle East, and he supported the establishment of the International Criminal Court, despite fierce opposition from successive US administrations.

[Kofi Annan] was dogged in his pursuit of peace, even where … the chances of success were slim.

To be sure, Kofi knew that not all of his diplomatic gambles would pay off. He was dogged in his pursuit of peace, even where – as with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – the chances of success were slim. After stepping down as secretary-general at the end of 2006, he continued to work as a peacemaker in countries ranging from Kenya and Syria to Myanmar. He was sometimes frustrated, but he continued the demanding work of building relationships with mistrustful political actors until his death, in 2018.

Kofi was driven by a fundamental concern for the dignity and welfare of all people, especially the most vulnerable. This informed his advocacy for not only the MDGs but also fair elections and democratic institutions. He cast himself as a global advocate for the common good, arguing that countries shared a “common destiny” and that “we can master it only if we face it together.”

It is easy to admire Kofi’s virtues in retrospect, but it is more difficult than ever for leaders to replicate them in the present. In an era of populism and division, those who champion solidarity and unity – within or between countries – are often drowned out in public discourse. It is therefore vital to speak up more loudly on their behalf.

For this reason, our organizations – the Kofi Annan Foundation, the International Crisis Group, the International Peace Institute, and the Open Society Foundations – have joined forces to launch a new initiative to celebrate leaders who reflect Kofi’s qualities. Later this year, and in each succeeding year, we will invite a national leader or inspiring international figure to give a lecture in New York on the values of international cooperation. We will select the speakers based on their commitment to human rights, international solidarity, and the defense of the international system that characterized Kofi’s life and work.

“I have always believed that on important issues, the leaders must lead,” Kofi said in 2014. “Where the leaders fail to lead, and people are really concerned about it, the people will take the lead and make the leaders follow.” Now more than ever, we must safeguard, celebrate, and promote the virtues he embodied.

For more information about the Kofi Annan Lecture series see here.

Contributors

Nane Annan
Wife of the late Kofi Annan, nutrition advocate, artist, and former lawyer
President & CEO
EroComfort
Susana Malcorra
Co-Chairs Crisis Group, former foreign minister of Argentina
Mark Malloch-Brown
Member of Crisis Group's Executive Committee, former deputy United Nations secretary-general, co-chair of the UN Foundation, and President of the Open Society Foundations
Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein
Former UN high commissioner for human rights, President of the International Peace Institute