/

Flawed options for Darfur peacemakers

by Richard Weitz

PRAGUE — The long-sought joint peacekeeping force for Darfur, which would combine the existing 7,000-man African Union force with as many as 20,000 additional military personnel and civilian police under U.N. command, has now been approved. But several roadblocks still stand in the way, making it very difficult for the joint A.U.-U.N. mission to bring about a peaceful settlement to the Darfur conflict.

Although U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon pressed the U.N. Security Council to move rapidly to authorize the proposed joint force, member governments remain deadlocked over its mandate.

With the encouragement of Sudan’s government, China and Russia have thus far blocked a resolution sponsored by Britain and France that would allow the proposed hybrid force “to use all necessary means” to protect humanitarian workers and other civilians. Sudan’s U.N. ambassador has called for a draft whose language is “more Sudan-friendly.”

Moreover, U.N. analysts estimate that most of the additional troops will not arrive in Darfur until early next year. The preceding phase envisages only providing the existing A.U. force with extra logistic support from non-African countries, such as engineers from China.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has called for merging these two phases to accelerate progress, which would require substantial funds to secure and deploy the additional U.N. peacekeepers.

According to Jean-Marie Guehenno, the head of U.N. peacekeeping operations, any hybrid force must be “robust” because of the “very challenging” situation in Darfur. The draft British-French resolution would provide for an authorized ceiling of 19,555 military troops and 6,400 police officers, with an estimated cost of $2 billion-plus during its first year.

The Bush administration has been a leading advocate of deploying a robust peacekeeping operation in Darfur. But the United States is impeding this process by falling far behind in its obligatory payments to the U.N. peacekeeping budget, with total U.S. arrears estimated at more than $500 million — and possibly exceeding $1 billion by the end of 2007. The EU has also encountered difficulties in fulfilling its pledged financial assistance to the existing A.U. force in Darfur.

Moreover, the division of labor for any joint mission — especially regarding financing and command — remains unresolved. Many African leaders insist that they should retain principal control of any peacekeeping force in Darfur. Their preferred model calls for the U.N. to provide the funding and most other support for the mission, while allowing the A.U. to maintain its leadership role.

Many Western governments, however, refuse to place their forces under A.U. command, owing to its perceived weaknesses, and have conditioned further support for peacekeeping operations in Darfur on the United Nations’ assuming control. But the U.N. has found it difficult to attract sufficient volunteers for such a force, since foreign governments have acceded to Sudanese demands that the hybrid force remain predominantly African.

At the same time, the complex chain of command envisaged for an A.U.-U.N. force recalls some of the worst features of NATO-U.N. operations in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s. A.U. commanders on the ground would retain tactical control, a joint A.U.-U.N. command would exercise operational supervision, and the U.N. would establish the force’s overall strategic objectives. Such a convoluted command system will make it difficult to react to any rapidly developing crisis or threat.

Indeed, even if foreign troops reduce the violence, peace might last only as long as they remain deployed, since the conflict has evolved from a struggle between rebel groups and the Sudanese government into one between various clans and ethnic groups, with the government intervening on behalf of its allies.

The example of Kosovo is revealing. Eight years after the 1999 NATO intervention, a 17,000-strong international force is still needed to prevent a resurgence of violence, and Kosovo’s ultimate political status remains unresolved.

A major peacekeeping operation in Darfur would likely produce a similar situation: protracted uncertainties regarding the region’s future political status, impeded socio-economic development, persistently diverging expectations among the conflicting parties, unresolved tensions resulting from non-fulfillment of these expectations, and the likelihood of renewed violence should the foreign intervention force withdraw.

In addition, an extensive military operation in Darfur would not necessarily secure the region unless it also addressed the problems in the rest of Sudan. The U.N. Human Rights Committee has found that widespread and systematic human rights abuses extend throughout Sudan, not just Darfur. Foreign Policy magazine considers Sudan the country most at risk of state failure.

For these reasons, any major peace operation involving Western countries would soon lead their governments to consider regime change in Khartoum as the most viable exit strategy.

Because the Sudanese government recognizes this as well, it will resist any such deployment, regardless of foreign threats and blandishments.

Richard Weitz is a senior fellow and director of program management at the Hudson Institute. Copyright 2007 Project Syndicate (www.project-syndicate.org)