From the Sudan Tribune, a comment posted in it’s entirety.
Wake up Mr. Ban Ki-Moon! Your Darfur plan is falling apart.
Monday 12 November 2007 09:43.By Wasil Ali*
“I am a realist, a man of action, I believe in results”. These were the words of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon describing his strategy on Darfur. The “man of action” has initiated a new policy aimed mainly at distancing himself from his predecessor Kofi Annan. By now the UN Secretary General must have realized that his new strategy to resolve the Darfur crisis have failed miserably.
We can easily understand why Ban’s new strategy failed by looking at his assessment of the root causes of the Darfur conflict. The UN Chief wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post last June in which he said “You all know that the conflict in Darfur began, long ago, in part because of drought. When the rains failed, farmers and herders fell into competition for an increasingly scarce resource.”
“As part of the solution, the government [Sudanese government] with international assistance will have to ensure that the people of Darfur have access to vital natural resources – water being chief among them. The UN stands ready to assist in this effort.” he added.
Given this shallow evaluation of the conflict by the top UN official, it is natural that all subsequent proposals by the UN to end the crisis will yield no results.
If Mr. Ban Ki-Moon did a proper research he would have discovered that we have a Darfur crisis because the ruling National Islamic Front exploited the traditional conflicts between the farmers and the herders in order to change the geopolitics and the demographics in Darfur.
Moving from this naive understanding of the conflict the UN leader began to implement the next stage of his plan. The fundamental pillar of the plan is to accommodate Khartoum as much as possible in order to achieve a breakthrough in the deployment of the peacekeepers and securing a peace accord for the region.
The first signs of appeasement by the world body surfaced when the corrupt and incompetent African Union (AU) leadership insisted that it should retain command and control over the hybrid force. This unprecedented request by a regional organization to supersede the authority of the universal body was not only a blatant violation of the UN charter but unworkable and unfair. The reason being is that the UN is picking the tab for the force and must ensure that their money is well spent on an effective force. However the failure of AU forces currently in Darfur means that for them to take leadership of the largest peacekeeping operation in the world would only jeopardize the efficiency of the force.
Despite these basic facts I just mentioned, the UN leadership has agreed to create this vague chain of command and control for the UN-AU hybrid force. The interpretation by the Sudanese government has been that the AU is in charge of whole operation but UN diplomats say that the world body has overall control over the force. The contradiction in interpretation is likely to create more difficulties for the force once and if it is deployed in Darfur. Ban Ki-Moon has clearly failed to assert the authority of the UN by agreeing to this.
Naturally the AU leadership and Khartoum were emboldened by the weakness displayed by the UN in the negotiations leading up to resolution 1769 creating the UN-AU hybrid force. Last August and after meeting with Sudan’s president, the (AU) chief Alpha Oumar Konare completely bypassed the UN and declared that Africa will provide all troops for the force. Yet the message Konare sent to the UN Department of Peacekeeping operations was to back off and let them determine what kind of force Darfur needs.
Then the AU went to nominate Major General Karenzi Karake from Rwanda as the deputy commander for the force. The nomination of Karake by the AU was done without consulting the UN. Karake’s history turned out to be questionable to say the least with accusations by Rwandan opposition groups of gross human right violations floating around him. Despite the fact that UN officials behind the scenes acknowledged that the accusations have some credibility, they went ahead endorsed Karake.
Slowly and sluggishly the UN begins to respond, but too late. The AU and Sudan realized that the UN is too weak to say no. Khartoum and the AU started putting one objection after the other to troop donating countries. The AU rejected non-African infantry soldiers, including those from Uruguay, Thailand and Norway. The UN resisted and said that some of the African troops offered do not conform to UN standards. However the world body bent down and turned down those non-African infantry troops as part of the appeasement policy by Ban Ki-Moon.
To add insult to injury, the Sudanese president Omar Hassan Al-Bashir yesterday accused the UN of trying to incorporate CIA and Israeli intelligence agents as part of the European engineer brigade proposed. Al-Bashir said he will not accept the desperately needed technical units from Scandinavian countries. More than likely the UN will heed to this request given the fact that Ban Ki-Moon effectively gave Khartoum a veto power over the composition of the force.
On the political front Ban Ki-Moon has entrusted the incompetent Jan Eliasson with trying to bring peace to Darfur. Eliasson has very little experience in dealing with Sudan. Moreover he has effectively delegated his mandate to the AU mediator Salim Ahmed Salim who is not liked by most if not all rebel groups. Despite the boycott by major rebel groups the UN and AU insisted on holding the peace talks. The natural outcome was that the peace talks in Sirte, Libya have failed as surprise to no one but Salim and Eliasson.
From the start selecting Libya as the venue for the peace talks was made at the request of Al-Bashir when he met with Ban Ki-Moon during his visit to Khartoum. Of course Ban Ki-Moon did not consult with rebel groups on the choice as part of his “accommodation” policy to Khartoum. In face of criticism for the choice of Libya Ban said that “They have experience and they have know-how, and there are quite a number of leaders of movements and groups residing in Libya”.
As grateful as Ban Ki-Moon was to Libya for hosting the peace talks, the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi did not share the same warm feelings. In the opening remarks at the peace talks in Sirte, Gaddafi said that the best thing that foreign peacemakers and peacekeeping troops could do for Darfur was stay out of it. Gaddafi’s statements were simply a slap in the face of Ban Ki-Moon. A few days prior to the peace talks the Libyan leader angered the Darfuri people by saying that “the Darfur refugees are happy to remain in the camps because they receive free food”.
On the justice front Ban Ki-Moon has indicated that he is in favor of leaving the ICC arrest warrants against the Darfur war suspects in the background for the time being so that peace efforts and deployment of UN peacekeepers in Darfur can be successful. It was a dangerous and unprecedented message he sent to Khartoum and to war criminals in general despite a binding UN resolution on the matter. Of course the Sudanese government was both excited and relieved with Ban Ki-Moon’s statements.
What Ban Ki-Moon did not understand is that accountability is not a matter of luxury but a deterrent to further crimes. Yet the hypocritical side of the UN chief came up when ten AU peacekeepers were killed by unknown gunmen in Darfur. He issued a statement calling for “speedy justice” and that “those responsible for the “outrageous” act should be brought to justice”. It is up to the reader to make their own conclusions on the contradictory stances by Ban Ki-Moon on the same issue.
While I understand that Ban Ki-Moon will never be able to fill the void left by his predecessor Kofi Annan on Darfur, he has to rise to the occasion and realize that a year of accommodating Khartoum yielded no results. It is almost 2008 and the hybrid force is far from deployment because of Khartoum’s continuous foot dragging. For how long is Ban Ki-Moon willing to let that happen? There is too much at stake. As the US senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey eloquently put it “If I was sitting in those [Darfur] camps, I could not stand the counsels of patience and delay”.
* The author is Sudan Tribune journalist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org