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Darfur: Here’s how to stop the killing

Article by Dr Greg Austin and Ben Koppelman

September 15, 2006

What must the international community do now to end the violence?

By Greg Austin and Ben Koppelman

The Sudanese government has carried out a murderous campaign in its Darfur region through deliberate bombing of civilian targets and through support of Jingaweit militias raping and killing on the ground. It cannot be trusted to end the killing, though it may see some temporary gain in slowing or pausing it.

Yet current international measures seem to depend on the Sudanese government as a partner. The US has proposed a draft UN Security Council resolution calling on the government of Sudan to stop the violence in Darfur, to impose an arms embargo on the Jingaweit militia, and to arrest Jingaweit leaders.

In addition, the US is supporting the African Union’s monitoring of the ceasefire and its role in restarting talks for a political solution in Darfur. Yet the Sudan government is saying that the AU will do or can do nothing without Sudan’s consent. It remains an open question whether the new-born AU will be prepared to override this taboo of non-intervention without Sudan’s consent.

To end the violence, the UN and major powers, like Canada, must understand that the government they are dealing with is a dictatorship that has directly sponsored terrorist attacks and harboured Osama bin laden. This government has already been subject several times to UN sanctions or unilateral US sanctions, which have not always been successful.

Despite repeated promises by Sudan to disarm the militia, including to Kofi Annan in June, the Jingaweit continues to kill with impunity. Moreover, some of those being ‘disarmed’ are reportedly being absorbed into government police and paramilitary forces operating in Darfur. Given the extent of the proliferation of arms in Darfur now, an arms embargo seems equally futile.

Ultimately, it is government officials who are responsible for the murderous campaigns in Darfur. Until their calculus of political gain is specifically targeted, the violence will not stop. These officials should be publicly named and shamed, and be subjected to personal sanctions, such as freezing of bank accounts or banning of international travel. Simultaneously, the major powers or the UN should form a working group to document and publicise the war crimes in Darfur in a rapid and authoritative manner.

In the short term, it is paramount that there is a ceasefire. But the two previous ceasefires (September 2003 and April 2004) have not held. This suggests that another ceasefire would be of no value unless supported by other firm measures.

First, the AU ceasefire monitoring team must be more robust in terms of troops as well as logistical support, especially transport and modern satellite communications. Darfur is a vast and remote region (as big as France), has a low population density (one tenth that in Rwanda), and has few transport links.

Second, the mandate of the AU troops to protect the monitors should be extended. Their duties must go beyond observing to include protecting refugees and disarming militias, a measure Kofi Annan identified in 2001 as a necessary adjunct to any UN peacekeeping deployment.

However, a necessary condition for diplomacy to succeed is the threat of international military action, especially since the sanctions against Sudan in the late 1990s were not fully effective. The only way to demonstrate the seriousness of such resolve would be through the contribution of troops from non-Western countries — in particular, African and Arab states. A force led by, or even containing troops from, the USA or the UK may be out of the question entirely.

Along with threats, there must also be incentives. An effective way to end attacks by the Jingaweit and their opponents may be to offer cash incentives to them, or communities who support them, to stop fighting. (Such an approach worked well in Mozambique.) The international community should also provide emergency funds for quick effect projects to revamp the regional infrastructure.

Over the last 12 to 18 months, the UN and interested major powers have avoided dealing decisively with the Darfur conflict due to fear of disturbing the peace talks to end the civil war between the government and rebels in the south of the country. However, there has to be some recognition – based on the Darfur events — that this government of Sudan may not be not a reliable partner in that longer standing negotiation process. It is now open to serious question whether that peace process can be saved in the absence of a political process across Sudan as a whole, in which all rebel groups and marginalised communities can participate.

It has taken a long time for the international community to act despite being aware of Khartoum’s genocidal campaign against non-Arab tribes in Darfur, at least as early as September 2003. The international community must act without delay. The Security Council cannot allow more time to see if Khartoum will fulfil its pledges because this only provides more time for further atrocities to be committed or for Khartoum to manipulate the cease-fires to its own murderous purposes.

Direct, tangible and imminent threats – combined judiciously with incentives – and targeted at the Sudanese leadership and Arab militia leaders are needed now to end to the violence.

Greg Austin is Director of Research at the Foreign Policy Centre, Ben Koppelman is a Research Officer there.

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