Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Dallaire On Darfur

Romeo Dallaire, now a senator in the Canadian parliament, was the commander of the UN peacekeeping force on the ground at the onset of the Rwandan genocide. He has been haunted by his inability to do anything about the slaughter, and has written extensively about his failure, the failure of the UN, and of the international community.

Yesterday, Dallaire published an open letter to General Martin Agwai, the commander-designate of the UN force that will, someday, be deployed into Darfur. The letter is worth reading in its entirety:
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.

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
An excellent letter. Unfortunately, if I was a betting man, I would wager that Dallaire's advice will not be followed, and that the situation in Darfur is far from improving.


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