By Mohammed A. R.Galadari
3 June 2006
DARFUR defies a solution, even as international efforts intensified and some 60 Nobel laureates lent their powerful voice to the initiatives to facilitate lasting peace in Sudan’s troubled West. Two options are open, namely to strengthen the hands of the African Union peacekeeping force, or allow deployment of UN forces. If precious lives are to be saved, a decision must come fast. Dear readers, the call made by the Nobel laureates to the UN, seeking a forceful intervention in Darfur under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, is however punctuated by a sense of realism. This is reflected, among other things, in their insistence that the bulk of the new proposed deployment of UN peacekeeping forces should come from come from African and Muslim countries. It is imperative that, while the international pressure on Sudan mounts for a just settlement of the three-year-old conflict, the feeling should not go around that vested interests are trying to fish in troubled waters. External intervention must be to the extent that the sovereignty of Sudan, as a nation, is not challenged, and in a way as to support the cause of peace. Admittedly, Darfur is where tens of thousands of people have been killed in the past few years, due to violence, displacement from their homes, and diseases. Even international aid agencies have, by and large, not been in a position to reach up to the suffering multitudes due to the extremely volatile situation prevailing there. The Beshir government in Khartoum had often been criticised for its failure to facilitate lasting peace in the country’s south, where the world’s longest-running civil war had taken a heavy toll of lives over two decades. But, to the government’s credit, peace is a reality there now, leading to the formation of a Government of National Unity in Khartoum with the involvement of the southern rebels. The stated position of Khartoum is that AU peacekeeping forces should exclusively handle the situation in Darfur. This stand is based on its concern over likely external meaning Western interference in its affairs. On the other hand, as a matter of fact, the AU forces are ill equipped. It does not have the requisite strength what can 7,000 personnel do in such a difficult scenario is anybody’s guess. Add to this the fact that it is severely handicapped in terms of the lack of sophisticated military resources. This is an area where the West can come to the aid of the AU and this is the stand of Khartoum as well. If it must agree for deployment of UN peacekeeping forces, a proposition that it keeps rejecting, that agreement must have inbuilt safeguards to maintain the sovereignty of Sudan. There cannot be a compromise on that front. The Nobel laureates’ proposal must be seen and welcomed in this context. The failure on the part of two rebel factions to sign, and be a party to, the May 5 peace deal between Khartoum and a prominent rebel faction — the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) — in respect of Darfur, means that peace is still a far cry. While SLA has had the maximum firepower, the others are capable of wrecking the peace plans. The initiative by the southern rebels, now part of the government, to broker a deal in the west, is limping, despite the past links between the two. Thus, it is a big question whether the rebels in the west too could be made part of the new federal administration. As the Nobel laureates stated in their letter, peace will elude Darfur as long as the peacekeeping force do not have the tools to do their job. Their stress is on the need for close-air support, radar systems to monitor the ground movements, and the capacity to enforce the no-flyzone. Having a peacekeeping force deployment will help little, as long as they are not in a position to intervene effectively. Dear readers, the visit by a UN Security Council delegation to Sudan this coming week is important in this context. Their priority should be to see, first, as to how to equip the AU peacekeepers in a way as to function effectively; failing which facilitate intervention by a UN force with guarantees to the sovereignty of Sudan.