A Critical Window to Bolster Sudan’s Next Government
A Critical Window to Bolster Sudan’s Next Government
Report 89 / Africa

Darfur: The Failure to Protect

Two years into the crisis in Darfur, the humanitarian, security and political situation is deteriorating. Atrocity crimes are continuing, people are still dying in large numbers from malnutrition and disease and a new famine is feared. The international community is failing to protect civilians itself or influence the Sudanese government to do so.

Executive Summary

Two years into the crisis in Darfur, the humanitarian, security and political situation is deteriorating. Atrocity crimes are continuing, people are still dying in large numbers from malnutrition and disease and a new famine is feared. The international community is failing to protect civilians itself or influence the Sudanese government to do so. The UN Security Council is currently negotiating a draft resolution that could begin to resolve the crisis if it is strong enough on civilian protection and accountability for atrocity crimes. But if Council divisions and veto threats again water down the final product as has happened several times already, the situation in Darfur will worsen. And it is likely to be only a matter of time until its poison affects the peace deal that was signed on 9 January 2005 to end the long war between the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement (SPLM).

The comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) signed by the government and the SPLM contains provisions and models that could form the basis of a political solution -- not only for the conflict in Darfur, but also for the east of Sudan where conditions are ripe for increased violence. But neither its elements nor the prospect it offers of new players, and eventually new policies, in the central government can have a quick impact in Darfur. That requires a much more robust international policy to reverse a deteriorating situation.

Khartoum made peace with the SPLM in part to head off mounting pressure over Darfur. So far the gambit is working. The international community is deeply divided -- perhaps paralysed -- over what to do next in Darfur. The situation on the ground shows a number of negative trends, which have been developing since the last quarter of 2004: deteriorating security; a credible threat of famine; mounting civilian casualties; the ceasefire in shambles; the negotiation process at a standstill; the rebel movements beginning to splinter, and new armed movements appearing in Darfur and neighbouring states. Chaos and a culture of impunity are taking root in the region.

The UN Commission of Inquiry on Darfur described the massive scope of atrocities carried out in the territory, primarily by the government and its allied Janjaweed militias. The "protection by presence" strategy pursued by the UN and the African Union (AU), based on an AU force whose primary mission is to monitor the failing ceasefire, is not working. Hampered by slow arrival of donated African troops and Western logistical support, the AU has less than 2,000 of its authorised 3,320 personnel on the ground. A much larger force, such as the four to five fold increase recently called for by Jan Egeland, and a much stronger mandate to protect civilians, are required.

The key to stabilising the security situation, however, is to persuade the government to begin to fulfil its numerous commitments to disarm and neutralise the Janjaweed militia. The record of at least the past year shows it will not do this as long as it believes the cost of inaction is minimal. Altering this calculus requires the immediate imposition of targeted punitive measures, such as a freeze of overseas assets of companies controlled by the ruling party, a travel ban on senior officials, an expanded arms embargo -- and a realistic prospect that the atrocity crimes that have been documented by the UN Commission of Inquiry will be investigated, prosecuted and adjudicated by the one tribunal that can do this expeditiously, the International Criminal Court (ICC). The U.S. government's general objections to that institution should not stand in the way, not least because the Court in this instance would be exercising jurisdiction in the manner Washington has always said would be appropriate, via a political decision taken by the Security Council.

Increased pressure must also be placed on the Darfur rebels to abide by their commitments and to cease all attacks in violation of the ceasefire. The rebels must regain control over their scattered forces, punish human rights violations, and resolve their internal differences. The last can be accomplished through a series of grassroots and leadership level conferences, which should be supported by the international community. If their leaders continue to undermine security, they should also be subject to targeted sanctions.

The international community needs also to move rapidly to invigorate the AU-led peace process. It may be losing its senior mediator, and it lacks serious commitment by the warring parties and the kind of high level partnership between the AU and the broader international community that would provide real leverage.

Finally, implementation of the CPA must not be allowed to become an excuse for not pressing toward a settlement in Darfur. On the contrary, failure to resolve the Darfur crisis is all too likely eventually to undermine the CPA. It would be a grave mistake not to apply real pressure on Khartoum now.

Nairobi/Brussels, 8 March 2005

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