Darfur Deadline: A New International Action Plan
Darfur Deadline: A New International Action Plan
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
After Six Months of War, Sudan is Disintegrating
After Six Months of War, Sudan is Disintegrating
Report 83 / Africa 4 minutes

Darfur Deadline: A New International Action Plan

The international response to the crisis in the western Sudanese region of Darfur remains limp and inadequate, its achievements so far desperately slight.

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Executive Summary

The international response to the crisis in the western Sudanese region of Darfur remains limp and inadequate, its achievements so far desperately slight. The UN Security Council must, by its review deadline of 30 August 2004, endorse a new international action plan -- taking tougher measures against the Khartoum government, which has acted in bad faith throughout the crisis, and authorising the African Union (AU), with stronger international support, to follow up more decisively its efforts to improve the situation on the ground and mediate a political settlement.

History has shown that Khartoum will respond constructively to direct pressure, but this pressure must be concerted, consistent and genuine. Its sixteen-month ethnic cleansing campaign has elicited a slow-motion reaction which is having a negligible positive impact. Despite a series of high-level visitors to Khartoum and Darfur, including UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, the Sudanese government has yet to fulfil its repeated commitments to neutralise the Janjaweed militias responsible for much of the violence. The international community has yet to make clear, as it must, that there will be a decisive cost to Sudan for that failure.

The situation in Darfur also constitutes a direct and growing threat to peace prospects in Sudan's 21-year-old civil war and to the chance for one of Africa's largest and potentially richest countries to hold together. Unless much more is done quickly, on both the humanitarian and peace fronts, not only will many tens of thousands more die, but instability will spread, impacting Sudan's neighbours.

On 30 July 2004 the UN Security Council finally passed its first resolution in response to the atrocities, including killings and systematic rape, being committed in Darfur, but that resolution was most notable for what it failed to do. It placed an essentially meaningless arms embargo on the Janjaweed militias who have caused so much havoc and the rebels alike, but directed no measures at the Sudanese government for whom the Janjaweed have acted as a proxy and left officials in Khartoum confident they could continue indefinitely to deflect pressure to resolve the crisis. A "Plan of Action" signed by the UN with the government a few days later left ample room for it to avoid meaningful action within the 30-day deadline set by the Council resolution.

Months after Secretary Powell warned that significant international action could be only days away and Secretary General Annan raised the possibility of military intervention, Khartoum remains adept at saying and doing just enough to avoid a robust international response. Key officials, particularly within military intelligence, continue to undermine avenues toward peace, directing integration of the Janjaweed into official security bodies like the police, army and Popular Defence Forces (a paramilitary arm of the government), rather than disarming them.

The international community must do much more about the interconnected problems of humanitarian relief and security on the ground. As many as two million civilians in Darfur need emergency aid, but many are not receiving it because of bottlenecks created by the government and -- to a lesser extent -- the rebels. The number in need is underreported and will increase significantly in the coming months. The capacity to provide humanitarian assistance in terms of logistics, funding, personnel and transport equipment is simply not adequate to service those at risk. More pressure must also be placed on the government to comply with its repeated commitments to improve security by neutralising the Janjaweed.

The one bright spot is the AU's increasingly energetic response. The regional organisation's observers in Darfur have filed reports that demonstrate the ceasefire is being violated regularly by both sides but particularly by the government. Its some 100 observers are being joined by a force of 300 Nigerian and Rwandan troops who will protect them, and it has intensified planning for a much larger force of some 3,000 troops that it wants to use for the wider purpose of protecting civilians. The European Union (EU), the U.S. and others who have indicated a willingness to support, logistically and financially, the deployment and maintenance of such a force must convincingly demand that Khartoum accept it and its mandate.

The Darfur situation poses an ever greater threat to the nearly finalised peace agreement to end the larger and older civil war between the government and the insurgent Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). As long as Darfur festers, the chance remains for political forces in Khartoum opposed to the concessions that have been made in that negotiation to turn government policy back toward war. There is also less prospect that a final agreement with the SPLA, even if signed, could be implemented, or that there would be the necessary support in the West to provide both sides the help they need to make that agreement work.

It is vital, therefore, for the AU also to enhance its efforts to mediate the political problems at the root of the Darfur crisis. The international community must provide full support to the AU-sponsored Darfur talks, such as those scheduled to begin on 23 August in Abuja, while it helps keep the government/SPLA negotiation under the regional organisation IGAD (Inter-governmental Authority on Development) moving forward. The two sets of peace talks are very much interrelated. For example, the AU should utilise the terms of the deal that has been struck on the Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile as a starting point for its work on the Darfur negotiations. The international community must support both processes robustly, and the mediation teams should find ways to coordinate closely. Had there been a comprehensive national peace process from the outset, the Darfur rebellion might well have been avoided: the need now is to maximise linkages and leverage.

Nairobi/Brussels, 23 August 2004

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