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United Nations Must Stop Genocide, War Crimes in Darfur, Sudan

12/7/2005 8:00pm

Africa Action (Washington, DC)
December 5, 2005
Posted to the web December 6, 2005
Washington, DC

As the security situation in Darfur, Sudan continues to deteriorate, there is a growing consensus around the need for a more robust mandate for the African Union (AU) mission and a larger international intervention force to support the AU and provide protection to the people of Darfur. Africa Action today declares that the United Nations (UN) is the appropriate vehicle for such an intervention, and that this is a viable option that should immediately be pursued by the international community.

Africa Action calls upon the U.S. to immediately introduce a resolution at the UN to "re-hat" the AU mission as a UN operation, granting it a strong civilian protection mandate from the international community, and to authorize a UN force to be deployed as soon as possible to the region. Based on African precedents, Africa Action asserts that such a UN action in support of the AU can and will provide critical support to the AU mission and provide security to the people of Darfur.

In this statement, Africa Action addresses the feasibility of such a UN intervention in Darfur. The organization offers new analysis of precedents where African regional bodies and the UN have cooperated effectively in peace enforcement and peacekeeping missions, and it applies lessons learned to recommend next steps on Darfur. Africa Action highlights the need for U.S. leadership at the UN to prompt such international action, and argues why this is the moment for such leadership to protect the people of Darfur.

An International Intervention is Necessary Now

Recent reports from the UN, humanitarian agencies and the media confirm a sharp deterioration in the security situation in Darfur. Already more than 400,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million have been forced out of their homes since the genocide began in 2003. As the violence worsens, growing numbers of people are being attacked and displaced, humanitarian organizations face increasing risks to their operations, and there are new demands for a protection force to provide security to the region. An international intervention is essential to serve four main purposes: (1) Stop the killings, rapes and pillaging in Darfur; (2) Provide security to facilitate humanitarian assistance programs for internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees; (3) Enforce the African Union cease-fire between the Khartoum government and the rebel groups in Darfur to allow meaningful political negotiations to move forward in Abuja, Nigeria, and (4) facilitate the voluntary return of IDPs to their land and the reconstruction of their homes by providing a secure environment.

As the 7th round of peace talks between the Government of Sudan and rebel groups from Darfur continues in Abuja, Nigeria, an international intervention is necessary to deter violence in Darfur and to help create the climate for these talks to proceed productively and result in a comprehensive agreement. Once a political agreement is reached in Abuja, an international intervention force will be essential to facilitate the implementation of such an agreement.

The African Union Needs UN Support

The African Union has demonstrated important leadership in Darfur - brokering the April 2004 cease-fire, deploying 7,000 troops to Darfur to observe the cease-fire, and hosting successive rounds of peace talks between the Government of Sudan and the rebels. Now the AU needs international support to ensure the success of its mission in Darfur, both for the sake of its institutional credibility and for the sake of millions of vulnerable people in Darfur. At present, the AU mission lacks the mandate, the troop strength and the logistical capacity to stop the genocide and provide protection to the people of Darfur.

Responding to genocide and other crimes against humanity is a responsibility of the international community. The UN must act to reinforce the AU's efforts, as it has worked with African regional bodies in the past, to ensure the success of peacekeeping operations where the lives of millions of innocent civilians are at stake.

Precedents Prove Case for UN-African Peacekeeping Operation

Under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, the Security Council may take such action as necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. The members of the UN have previously shown their willingness and capability to invoke Chapter 7 peace enforcement and peace-building instruments in response to conflict in Africa. Now, the UN can and must furnish the AU with a strong civilian protection mandate and with international backing in the form of a UN peacekeeping mission to support the AU in Darfur.

Precedents show that the UN is a viable source for effective and appropriate international intervention to stop genocide and other crimes against humanity. The following examples also show instances of successful cooperation between African regional bodies, which intervened as "first responders", and the UN, which acted to reinforce their efforts with a larger international force.

(1) In Sierra Leone, after the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) intervened to enforce the peace in 1998, the UN Security Council acted in 1999 to authorize an international force with a robust mandate, under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, to work alongside and coordinate with the ECOWAS mission. In late 1999, ECOWAS troops in Sierra Leone were "re-hatted" as UN peacekeepers, and transitioned into a UN mission the next year. The transition in early 2000 was initially rocky, but the Security Council rallied behind the mission and boosted its strength, and the mission was able to deter conflict and restore a secure environment to Sierra Leone.

(2) In Liberia, ECOWAS intervened to enforce the peace in 2003, and in August of that year it was granted the authority and mandate by the UN Security Council, under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, to establish security and facilitate humanitarian assistance in Liberia and to pave the way for a UN intervention. The UN Security Council acted swiftly and decisively to authorize and deploy (within 2 months) a larger multinational intervention in Liberia. The ECOWAS troops acted as the first contingent of the UN mission to Liberia, and authority was successfully transferred to the UN operation in October 2003. This international operation has been successful in promoting peace and stability in Liberia.

(3) In Côte d'Ivoire, the UN Security Council granted authority to ECOWAS and to France in 2003 to take the necessary steps to provide security and protection in Côte d'Ivoire. In 2004, a UN operation was authorized to take over from the ECOWAS force and work alongside the French forces to facilitate the implementation of the peace agreement and to provide protection in Côte d'Ivoire.

(4) In Burundi, the AU authorized and deployed its first peacekeeping operation in 2003, when the institution was itself only one year old. The AU operation in Burundi faced financial and logistical challenges, but it was able to oversee the cease-fire and provide some stability. It coordinated with the UN to ensure a relatively smooth transition to a UN operation in Burundi after one year.

Also under a Chapter 7 mandate, the UN already has a precedent of authorizing and deploying a peacekeeping operation in southern Sudan. In March 2005, the UN passed a resolution establishing a UN mission in Sudan (UNMIS) with up to 10,000 personnel and a mandate to support the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. At present, UNMIS comprises some 4,000 troops from more than 50 countries, the majority of which are outside the African continent.

These examples illustrate several important lessons, which must now be applied to a UN intervention in support of the AU mission in Darfur. First and foremost, these precedents reveal that a UN-authorized Chapter 7 intervention force in support of an African-led force can be effective in providing security and protection. They show that the Security Council can act with swiftness and decisiveness to grant a robust mandate and troop strength to protect civilians, and they highlight that such an intervention can act as a deterrent to violence and as a catalyst to make a peace process successful.

Lessons Learned for Darfur

(1) "Re-hat" the African Union troops as UN troops:

The initial step of "re-hatting" African troops as UN troops carries several important benefits, and this must immediately be pursued to reinforce the AU mission in Darfur. Turning the AU troops into UN 'blue helmets' will save time on deployment, since these troops are already in the theater, pending the deployment of a larger UN force. It will help to retain the AU's valuable experience on the ground, where these troops have already been carrying out important work. The act of granting a UN mandate to African troops will also provide them with international authority and backing, which can offer an important boost to the troops themselves and can help increase the confidence of civilians in Darfur in the AU operation because of the broader international support. Certainly, the act of "re-hatting" the AU will also require careful preparation, to ensure that the troops are ready to accept their new mandate, and the rules of engagement and standards which accompany it, but this has worked in the past and must be immediately pursued in Darfur.

(2) Deploy a UN intervention force:

The deployment of a UN intervention force to support the AU mission must follow swiftly, and this force should comprise at least 20,000 troops from the international community. This number is recommended by various sources based either on the ratio of peacekeeping troops to population or on the ratio of peacekeeping troops to hostile forces in Darfur. The deployment of this UN force must be well planned and coordinated with the African Union at every level and it must be well timed. Such coordination will be imperative whether the UN operation deploys alongside the AU or whether it ultimately assumes authority for the mission in Darfur. Consideration may also be given to the use of forces from UNMIS (in southern Sudan) for a UN mission in Darfur.

These examples illustrate that, while such a UN mission in Darfur is a potentially complex undertaking, it is perfectly possible, and morally and politically imperative, for an international intervention to be successful in promoting peace and security in Darfur, as has been the case elsewhere.

The U.S. Must Lead UN Action

In order for a UN mandate and intervention to be authorized by the Security Council, under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, there must be leadership from within the Security Council from a powerful nation with the political will and the resources to galvanize international support for this mission. This leadership must come from the U.S. for several reasons.

The U.S. is the only government to have declared that genocide is taking place in Darfur, and this provides it with a unique obligation to obtain international action on this crisis. The U.S. earlier prompted the UN to undertake an inquiry into the crisis in Darfur, and though the politically-comprised conclusion of the Commission of Inquiry failed to find genocidal intent on the part of the Sudanese government, the report confirmed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, and named civilian protection as an urgent priority. Other governments have failed to take a public position on what is happening in Darfur, but there is broad international recognition of ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity in western Sudan.

The U.S. has previously offered leadership on Darfur at the Security Council, authoring earlier resolutions condemning the violence in Darfur, threatening sanctions and calling on the Government of Sudan to stop the violence. But the U.S. has yet to call for an urgent international intervention to protect the people of Darfur. In the 15 months since the U.S. declared that genocide was taking place in Darfur, the U.S. has offered financial support for humanitarian efforts in Darfur, and U.S. officials have traveled back and forth to the region. But these limited actions cannot substitute for assertive international leadership to provide actual protection to the people of Darfur.

Possible Challenges in the Security Council

It is possible that the Security Council will not agree to intervene in Darfur even with U.S. leadership, because of the economic and diplomatic interests of some of the Permanent Members. China is the single largest investor in Sudan's oil sector, and Russia is Khartoum's major arms supplier. Neither one of these nations is in favor of the principle of intervention in the "internal affairs" of another state on the ground of human rights abuses. But a resolution on intervention could still pass the Security Council, as happened in March 2005 when the Security Council voted to refer war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC), and opposing nations abstained but did not veto the resolution.

These possible blocks offer no excuse for U.S. hesitation or inaction. The U.S. must discharge its own responsibility to act, first and foremost. It must issue the challenge to these nations by introducing a resolution calling for UN intervention in Darfur, and it must be willing to expend the necessary diplomatic capital to overcome their objections to a multinational force to stop the genocide. The U.S. has called the crisis in Darfur "genocide", and must have the courage of its convictions to bring this matter to the international community for immediate action, with a priority on civilian protection in Darfur. To fail to do so exposes a racial double standard, which this Administration can ill afford to maintain.

Africa Action Demands

In February 2006, the U.S. will hold the presidency of the United Nations Security Council for the period of one month. Between now and then, the U.S. must work within the UN to pave the way for the adoption of a new resolution on Darfur. In February, as President of the Security Council, the U.S. will have a unique opportunity and obligation to preside over the adoption of a resolution granting a robust civilian protection mandate to the African Union mission in Darfur and authorizing a broader UN intervention force to be deployed as soon as possible to support the AU effort.

The introduction and adoption of such a UN resolution is critical to the success of the AU in Darfur, and it is essential to save the lives of hundreds and thousands of vulnerable people, who urgently need protection from the international community. The Bush Administration faces growing public pressure for action to stop the genocide in Darfur. By acting now to introduce a resolution at the UN to re-hat the AU as a UN operation and deploy a complementary international force, the U.S. government would fulfill these calls for leadership in the face of genocide.

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