Eric Reeves writes about the latest failure of the UN to live up to its responsibility to protect the people of Darfur:
The news continues to be appallingly bleak on all fronts in Darfur, and yet the AU summit
concluded by extending for six months the mandate of an AU force that is increasingly immobile,
mounting fewer patrols, has largely abandoned the protection missions for women and girls
gathering firewood essential for cooking, and is badly demoralized and fearful. Physical attacks
on AU forces come from all quarters, as the mission has repeatedly been tested and found wanting.
Appropriate logistical, transport, intelligence, and communications capacities are desperately lacking;
manpower and firepower are completely inadequate to confront current violence or take on the new
civilian protection responsibilities stipulated in the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA).
The AU itself, in moments of honesty, acknowledges both that it does not have the resources
for the mission (or the ability to absorb them) and that there must be a UN takeover:
“We need to hand over the baton to the UN,” [AU Commission Chairman Alpha
Oumar Konare] said. “There is a necessity today to implement the Darfur Peace Agreement…. The AU
today does not have the resources to be there. We have to be clear about that…. We don’t have the
capacity to face a peacekeeping situation or an extended conflict.” (Associated Press [dateline: Addis
Ababa], June 7, 2006)
Despite these radical and self-acknowledged AU shortcomings, Kofi Annan was reduced to pleading with the AU to continue to provide, exclusively, security for all of Darfur:
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan asked AU leaders at a weekend summit to extend their mission in Darfur, where it is trying to provide security for some of the 2.5 million people living in camps after being displaced by three years of murder, rape and pillage. “On the request of the secretary general, the African Union will continue to fulfill its mission until the end of the year,” said Congo Republic president Sassou Nguesso, who holds the revolving AU presidency. Earlier Annan met Bashir on the fringes of the summit in Gambia, but failed to persuade him to allow UN troops into Darfur, whose crisis he called “one of the worst nightmares in recent history.” (Reuters [dateline: Banjul, Gambia], July 3, 2006)
No matter that Annan had previously described Bashir’s opposition to the UN force as “incomprehensible” (Reuters [dateline: Banjul, Gambia], July 2, 2006). The AU will—precisely because of Khartoum’s “incomprehensible” opposition—remain the only force offering security to the people of Darfur (and eastern Chad), including the almost 4 million human beings the UN now estimates are “conflict-affected” and in need of humanitarian assistance. The vulnerability of this vast population must be seen in the context of intolerable levels of insecurity that have led to many humanitarian evacuations and withdrawals from Darfur, and which may lead to the wholesale collapse of humanitarian operations. As Jan Egeland, head of UN aid operations, warned a month ago:
“The UN will withdraw its aid workers from the troubled Darfur region of Sudan unless their security is ensured soon,” UN emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland said on Wednesday [May 31, 2006]. “When we feel that we are gambling with the lives of our humanitarian workers, we will leave,” Egeland told Reuters. “I hope it will be never but it could be next week.” (Reuters [dateline: Paris], May 31, 2006)
International inaction to date, and declining humanitarian reach, ensure that many tens of thousands will die in the current rainy season (and “hunger gap”). In the event of full-scale withdrawal of humanitarian operations—daily more likely as chaotic violence escalates—the number of deaths will be in the hundreds of thousands.