Headlines this month are heralding the news that the Sudanese government has agreed — again — to the deployment of a U.N./A.U. hybrid peacekeeping mission for Darfur. However, the Khartoum regime’s agreement is proving to be riddled with conditions and footnotes, and within days of agreeing to the mission, President Omer al-Bashir has publicly recanted his acceptance before audiences in Khartoum.
Sadly, this is nothing new. The Khartoum regime's record of implementing agreements is poor at best, and the international community has done little to challenge Khartoum's inaction.
This time, Khartoum's wavering agreement can be translated into good news for the people of Darfur — if and only if the international community moves swiftly to: protect civilians in Darfur and the neighboring countries affected by the crisis; promote a serious peace process; and punish the perpetrators and those that would obstruct civilian protection or the peace. This strategy briefing will focus primarily on immediate protection requirements.
A. Protect the People
First, several critical factors will determine whether the proposed peacekeeping mission will achieve success and finally fulfill the international community’s responsibility to protect civilians in Darfur. The Sudanese regime will likely balk at each step, but in each case, the international community must push back and ensure that the following six elements of the mission are fully addressed:
- MANDATE: Civilian protection must be the objective of the deployment of forces to Darfur. The U.N. Security Council and the A.U. Peace and Security Council must authorize a robust Chapter VII mission mandated to protect civilians and humanitarian operations. Anything less will allow Khartoum to continue its assault on the people of Darfur, restrain the movement of relief workers, and give the rebels and the regime further license to escalate the conflict.
- MANAGEMENT: The United Nations must be responsible for the command and control of the mission. In light of the complexity of forging a hybrid mission comprised of two very different institutions and the need for successful collaboration, the mission should be under U.N. command and control, build on the experience of A.U. forces already on the ground, delineate clear responsibilities for both organizations, and include a transparent mechanism for the two to resolve disagreements that may arise in handling challenges to mandate implementation or mission operations.
- MANPOWER: Troops should be drawn from throughout the world, not just Africa. Given that current plans call for a mission of 17,500 – 19,500 troops and nearly 4,000 civilian police at a time when the demand for peacekeepers worldwide is on the rise, Africa is running up against limitations on its capacity to supply new troops. Therefore, troops should be drawn from anywhere, not just Africa as the Sudanese have suggested. The international community must move now to identify troop and police contributing countries, and rapidly increase international peacekeeper training programs to ensure that sufficient personnel are available over time.
- MOBILITY: The troops must be provided with the support necessary to undertake a mobile mission in the challenging terrain of Darfur. Moving a large and diverse force into theater as quickly as possible requires that the international community provide lift for the initial deployment as well as for rotations. Once on the ground, and because the size and terrain of Darfur require a nimble, mobile, and well-equipped force, the international community must ensure that troops are provided with interoperable equipment, ground facilities, sustenance, and logistical and air support.
- METHODOLOGY: Civilian components of the mission should have equal priority to military elements. In addition to its military and logistical capabilities, the mission will require robust financial support for civilian and political capabilities, including support for human rights monitoring, local dispute resolution, community outreach, and the dissemination of news and information to the public. The need for a dexterous mission able to protect civilians and humanitarian operations also requires that the international community immediately establish systems and mechanisms to share intelligence with the force command on the ground.
- MONEY: Donors must fully fund civilian protection in Darfur. Though its status as a U.N./A.U. hybrid means that the mission will be funded by assessed contributions to the United Nations, additional resources are required to sustain A.U. forces already on the ground, ensure a smooth transition to the U.N./A.U. hybrid force, and prepare for deployment. The international community must make these funds available immediately — particularly for barracks — in order to avoid any delays in deployment, and ensure that the hybrid is fully and realistically funded immediately upon authorization of the mission by the U.N. Security Council and A.U. Peace and Security Council.
Because the crisis has by now spread beyond Sudan’s borders, the swift deployment of the full hybrid force to Darfur must be accompanied by simultaneous efforts to protect vulnerable civilians in eastern Chad, where as many as 150,000 civilians have fled attacks by Khartoum-backed armed groups and reprisals by Chadian-backed militias, and in the Central African Republic, where humanitarian agencies have limited access to tens of thousands of newly-displaced civilians in the northeast.
The international community must embark swiftly on a strategy for regional protection that includes pressing Chadian President Idriss Deby to deploy his military forces to protect vulnerable populations; reaching agreement at the U.N. Security Council on the size and mandate of a protection force in eastern Chad and northeastern CAR; and establishing and supporting a coordination mechanism between a force in Chad, the peacekeeping force in Darfur, and the small regional peacekeeping force already in CAR. Finally, it is time for the international community to work with the Chadian and Central African governments and diverse stakeholders in both countries to establish credible, internationally-supported political dialogue with armed opposition groups and civil society organizations.
B. Promote the Peace
The second element of a successful strategy is a robust effort to secure a viable, lasting peace agreement (see “An Axis of Peace”). In a letter transmitted to the president of the U.N. Security Council and summarizing the high-level consultations between the A.U., U.N., and government of Sudan in June, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon notes that “the participants further agreed on the need for an immediate comprehensive ceasefire accompanied by an inclusive political process.” This agreement is no less important than Khartoum's stated acceptance of the hybrid force, as unless and until a durable peace agreement is achieved the peacekeeping mission is destined to fail.
C. Punish the Perpetrators
Third, punishment must be on the table. The road to peace in Darfur is littered with broken promises, both because Khartoum has repeatedly agreed to but failed to act upon ceasefires, peace agreements, and expanded peacekeeping missions and because the international community has, in each case, failed to extract any cost for that defiance.
It is time to hold Khartoum to its word. If the regime balks at any of the key components of the mission — such as U,N, command-and-control or troop contributors — the Security Council should step up the pressure by passing a resolution authorizing targeted sanctions on senior regime officials (see “We Know Their Names”) and the companies owned by the ruling party that help facilitate the regime’s business. (See “A Plan B With Teeth For Darfur”).
Time is not on the side of the people of Darfur, and Khartoum's latest promise is already wavering. But the international community is being handed an opportunity to muster the resources, diplomacy, and political will that can combine to make real our responsibility to protect the people of Darfur. It is ours to decide whether the will of the international community will prevail. The fate of millions of Darfurians and civilians from Chad and CAR hang in the balance.