Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Dallaire Responds to UNAMID

An open letter from the former force commander of the ill-fated UNAMIR mission to Rwanda, to General Martin Agwai, the newly appointed force commander designate for the UN mission in Darfur.

The original can be found here:

Dear General Agwai

Congratulations on your recent appointment as Joint United Nations/African Union force commander for the hybrid UN/AU Mission in Darfur, formalised by resolution 1769 as Unamid. After over four years of massive killing and displacement in Darfur, a conflict that has not only destabilised Sudan but the entire Eastern Sahel region, Unamid under the leadership of Mr Adada, joint special representative for Darfur, and the force under your command will have the historic opportunity to end slaughter, bring peace, [and] allow humanitarian aid. In the longer term, Unamid has the potential to facilitate the return of Darfur's people to their homes, enhance Sudan's sovereignty and territorial integrity and stabilise the region.

This is a daunting mandate, and you enter into this mission facing long odds. The intentions of the regime in Khartoum toward an effective, impartial implementation of the Unamid mandate are deeply uncertain. The Sudanese government has blocked and whittled international efforts, through the AU and UN, to end the killing and facilitate a durable peace through fair and transparent internal negotiations. Even since the enactment of Resolution 1769, we have seen ample indications that the Sudanese government will at every turn seek to impose a minimalist reading of the Unamid mandate. The government has already signalled that it will try to restrict the non-African role in the mission as much as it can and prolong the internal divisions and growing chaos which undermine efforts to end the fighting and provide humanitarian aid to all in need.

The challenges you will face in dealing with the rebel movements will also be substantial. In the absence of a viable political settlement process, and exacerbated by the Abuja settlement which many saw as imposed and unbalanced, the groups have fragmented and many elements have degenerated into criminal activity and focus on fighting each other. The same holds true of many "Arab" elements, some of which previously fought alongside government troops. The recent efforts of special envoys Salim and Eliasson have given some hope that this deterioration can be reversed with support from rebel movement leaders and field commanders themselves. But as you know, not all leaders are cooperating and conflict has certainly not diminished on the ground since the recent Arusha meeting. The threat to sustaining humanitarian operations as well as to nurturing the AU/UN-sponsored political talks is obvious and severe.

Finally, assembling, sustaining and directing such a large force in this most remote and inhospitable area will tax you, as it will test the will and capacity of both sponsoring organisations. The Unamid hybrid is conceptually novel, with many practical and legal issues that will impact your work yet to be discovered, let alone resolved. Funding, command and control, reporting and provisioning are all areas where both the location and force size will be taxing, and where the novel character of Unamid will add a difficult layer of challenge for you and the SRSG.

In wishing you well, as a fellow force commander, in your important mission, I would like to take the opportunity to offer a few broad thoughts that I hope may assist you in your preparation and implementation of the mission in the field.

First: I urge you to insist both to New York and to Addis Ababa that they clarify, in the most practical terms and as fast as possible, the chain of command and reporting for the mission. Resolution 1769 is vague on command and control. It did not precisely resolve the well-known disagreement between Khartoum, which insists on essentially AU command, and many other member states, that demand UN command and control as the only guarantor of effectiveness.

For my part, I would press hard for New York to be the headquarters you look to for ongoing guidance and authority to implement the mandate. In practical terms, DPKO has the mechanisms to give you guidance and respond to your urgent requirements at any time, whereas the AU headquarters does not, and DPKO also has long and hard-won experience in supporting missions in the field. At the same time, you will want to ensure that Unamid and DPKO itself integrate the AU secretariat into that process, so that its views and interests are dynamically engaged in your support. Above all, you and SRSG Adada will need to demand from both the UN and AU that they reject undue Sudanese government interference in the implementation of Resolution 1769 regarding command and control, and indeed in your operations.

Second: To succeed in the task given you, it is evident that you must exercise, and insist on, the broadest reading of the mandate given in resolution 1769 (especially operative paragraph 15) concerning your chapter VII authority. We are already seeing efforts by the Sudanese government and its friends to argue that the chapter VII authority extends only to force protection situations and support for the execution of the Darfur peace agreement. But the plain text of the resolution and the intent of the security council clearly are that Unamid should play an active role not only in maintaining peace, but also in protecting the vulnerable civilian population.

The security council's intent flows from those aspects of the Darfur conflict which have set it apart as an international concern of special priority - notably, the massive, purposeful death and displacement at the hands of government forces and their janjaweed militia creation. Those attacks burdened the African Union Mission (Amis) and cast in stark relief its lack of mandate and practical inability to intervene against even the most egregious and predictable attacks on civilians. The Sudanese government has indicated that it does not want Unamid to exercise its chapter VII authority to protect civilians. That cannot be accepted. It would render Unamid a nullity regarding the most fundamental reason for its creation.

Third: All are agreed that Unamid will benefit from having "a predominantly African character," but you must insist that member states with sophisticated capacities provide quickly, and with no political obstruction from Khartoum, what you need to make your force mobile and capable of extending its reach throughout Darfur. So far, a number of African countries have made significant and encouraging commitments. It is beyond dispute, however, that African states themselves simply cannot provide nearly 20,000 qualified troops (nor enough police). Unamid needs attack helicopters, engineers, big cargo lorries, communications and other capabilities that African states also cannot provide.

So far, the UN member states that can provide such capabilities have been slow to do so. I therefore encourage you to reject assertions that the AU has already committed, or could provide, all the needed military forces. Equally, you should bring great pressure, working with the senior UN and AU leadership, to pressure more resource-rich member states to provide the specialised capacities you need. And if Khartoum seeks to discourage meaningful non-African contributions, I urge you to take active exception in the interest of succeeding in your difficult task.

Fourth: Press for progressive deployment of the force, as elements are recruited and prepared. Resolution 1769 sets ambitious target dates for establishing Unamid's operations headquarters, for taking command of the support packages and support for Amis, and for assumption of command authority from Amis. Ranged against those targets are the real challenges of rapid mobilisation and deployment of national troop contributions to Unamid.

The thrust of the resolution is correct in practical as well as policy terms, but the period from now until full Unamid deployment will be a testing one and in many ways the determining period for the mission's success or failure. Previous Amis commanders have made clear their assessment that getting more troops on the ground will shift the balance of authority toward the peacekeepers and away from the spoilers. With a progressive deployment, Unamid can foster a gradual shift in the balance of power in Darfur, which will enhance the longer-term prospects for its effectiveness. In this regard, you will want to maintain pressure on both the UN and AU headquarters to build your needed camp and other logistical facilities as fast as possible, and to monitor Sudanese government interaction with Unamid and the camp construction contractors to ensure that any delaying manoeuvres are quickly identified, reported to New York and Addis Ababa and made a priority for diplomatic intervention.

Fifth: Be vigorous and frank, both in your official reporting to New York and Addis Ababa, and in your public commentary, concerning your achievements and the challenges and obstacles you encounter. It is important that your official reporting, in describing progress on mandate implementation, should highlight obstacles you face that require action by the two headquarters, or by member states. You can anticipate being let down by everyone on whom you depend for support, be that troops, funding, logistics or political engagement. Only by shining a spotlight on those failures in every possible way can you mobilise the attention necessary to get the action you need. Bear in mind that whoever fails you will, in the end, be the most active in blaming you for whatever goes wrong.

Permit me to conclude, general, by wishing you every success in this most challenging and important assignment.


Senator/Lt General Roméo Dallaire

Chinese Peacekeepers Preparing for UNAMID

Chinese Peacekeepers training for deployment with UNAMID.

About half way through they demonstrate their willingness to lay down their lives in the completion of their mission, oh.. no actually, news just in, they are demonstrating the approved response to opposition from the government of Sudan.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Darfur from Humanitarianism to Development

My experience is that the reluctance of international efforts to shift from humanitarian rhetoric to developmental or to provide substantial support to political processes is closely associated with institutional competition between INGO and the bilateral/multilateral agencies. Part of the problem is that the most influential actors on Darfur within Western polities are INGOs. With popular support mobilised through emotive advocacy campaigns these organisations are able to inflict real political costs on democratic politicians. The problem is that INGOs are effectively tied to humanitarian work, lacking the political mandates and the resources to effectively support a political process or become deeply involved in developmental planning.

As a result, their work, although essential and highly effective, restricts the majority of their advocacy within Western countries to emergency relief or crisis intervention. Using Durkhiem's distinction between profane and the sacred, these campaigns thus portray the political work of conflict resolution as profane, rather than the sacred purity of humanitarian action. This emphasis is in turn is passed on, through the capitals of donor countries, to set the priorities for embassies and international agencies.

The substantial problem here, however, lies in international institutions – the UN and the World Bank are frequently, unwilling or unable to make strong, public cases for the support for political processes. Instead of leading on issues, they often follow - despite their vast budgets often receiving good analysis.

Beyond Darfur the most important example of such an issue is the upcoming elections in 2009. At present, no single agency or NGO, with the exception of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (I have no affiliation) and the British Embassy (again no affiliation), are taking an effective lead on preparing for these elections. The first since 1986, it is estimated that 60% of the population has never voted before and I have frequently encountered basic misconceptions on the nature of democracy/elections within Sudan. Most disturbingly, the perception that elections are purely conflict resolution mechanisms between parties – with no real appreciation of the secondary functions of democracy such as protection of minority rights and checks and balances. As a result, the risk of violent conflict, within the centre of Sudan around the elections is growing, with very few international actors prepared to act in any way to reduce this likelihood.

The largest failure here is UNMIS – who consistently refers to its mandate to legitimize its failure to address elections effectively. This failure is a perfect example of why a UN force in Darfur, regardless of composition, is unlikely to be able to improve the situation, as like UNMIS it will lack political will to effectively address political problems. Instead it will adopt humanitarian functions that allow it to be well portrayed in the international media, whilst neglecting the messy, profane and essential work of political activism.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Darfur II

As has been said for years, Darfur is a symptom not a cause of a deeper crisis. Here we have a presentation of the problems that are emerging in the north.

"Tensions have been high here since soldiers opened fire on an anti-government protest of 5,000 Nubians in June, killing four young men and wounding nearly two dozen. The government has arrested nearly three dozen Nubian leaders and four journalists who were trying to cover the violence.Now a recently formed rebel group, calling itself the Kush Liberation Front, is advocating armed resistance to overthrow the central government, which it accuses of oppressing Nubians and other indigenous peoples in Sudan."Our efforts will not succeed unless they are backed by military action," said Abdelwahab Adem, a Nubian former businessman and co-founder of the Kush Liberation Front. "We need to get rid of the Arabs. Our goal is to realize a new Sudan, by force if necessary."Adem said the new movement would rely on "guerrilla fighting," targeting the capital, Khartoum, and other major Sudanese cities. He declined to specify what sort of tactics might be used or how many fighters the group has."

This is all taking place thousands of kilometres away from Darfur. Whilst diplomats nod their heads, they are unable to convince politicians back in London, New York or Beijing, to invest political capital in lobbying for medium-term reform of the central government.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Interview with Hassan al-Turabi, September 3rd 2007.

Al-Jazeera interview with Dr. Hassan al-Turabi, the leader of Sudan's most influential Islamist movement and Speaker of Parliament until 2001. Turabi appears to find events in Darfur hilarious. "The government did not order them to commit genocide, but [chuckling] they are wild people." He also shows some remarkable compassion for the hardships of hybrid force. God forbid that they get too hot. "We don't need to exert on humanity to bring in their soldiers, into to a different country, and a different climate, and to die for us."

Mahmoud Mamdani, Blue Hatting Darfur

Uganda's Columbia University Professor is back again with another broadside on the international community's efforts in Darfur.

"‘The AU has become part of the conflict,’ Mohamed Saley, the leader of the JEM splinter group that allegedly abducted the AMIS patrol in October 2005, told Reuters at the time. ‘We want the AU to leave and we have warned them not to travel to our areas.’ Trying to keep the peace in the absence of a peace agreement made the AU ‘part of the conflict’. There is no reason to believe that the fate of the UN will be any different. To strengthen the mandate in the absence of a political agreement is more likely to deepen than to solve the dilemma. To enforce the ceasefire will mean taking on the role of an invading – and not a peacekeeping – force. Darfur, which is a bit smaller than France – and larger than Iraq – will surely require a force of more than the 26,000 currently planned by the UN."

And more specifically on my favoured theme, the inclusion of Sudanese institutions in the relief effort:

"Local voluntary organisations were critical of the growing dependency of IDPs on international NGOs. The representative from El Fasher Call made the point with some bitterness: ‘IDPs are trying to endear themselves to international NGOs but don’t want to deal with national NGOs.’ ‘IDPs don’t believe in anything Sudanese any more,’ a representative from a Fur charity added. One participant from a construction NGO observed that the war had made people adopt a ‘consumer mentality’. The disaffection with INGOs was shared by all local voluntary organisations, regardless of their ethnic affiliation or political inclination. ‘National NGOs lack the capacity to provide necessary services,’ a representative of Sudan Development Organisation explained, not least because they are excluded by INGOs: ‘They make no attempt to acknowledge that we know the ground better, and also the demands of the people. No wonder most national NGOs have been rejected by the IDPs. If international NGOs gave us a chance, people might appreciate us more.’"

Full article available here, http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/43158

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Darfur in the Arab Press

This is an interesting topic that receives scant attention from Western advocates or audiences

Darfur in the Arab Press

"The ongoing massacre in Darfur, which has been raging since 2003, receives scant coverage in most of the Arab media. The few articles that appear on the subject generally minimize the importance of reports on the ethnic cleansing in the region, [1] and most of them characterize the international efforts to stop the bloodshed in Darfur as a Western, American, or Zionist plot aimed at seizing the country's natural resources. [2] Furthermore, the extensive coverage of Darfur in the Western media is portrayed in these articles as an attempt to divert the attention of international opinion from events in Iraq, the Palestinian Authority, and Somalia.

Nonetheless, on occasion some sharply critical articles are published which condemn the Arab media's indifference to the events in Darfur. [3] These articles urge the Arab countries to drop the conspiracy theories and support the international community's efforts to stop the bloodshed in the region."