Monday, July 14, 2008

Dark Days for Darfur

Things are getting much, more worse for Darfur lately. Last week, a convoy of UN peacekeepers was ambushed by 200 gunmen on horseback and in SUVs. Seven peacekeepers were killed, and 22 wounded in the attack, which reinforces the argument that peacekeeping forces are inappropriate and ill-suited for a conflict which has not been resolved. Peacekeeping forces normally are introduced into conflict situations that have ended by agreement of all warring parties but who do not trust one another to keep the peace. Thus, a neutral third party interposes itself between the sides, guaranteeing that each side will adhere to its commitments. But Darfur is not a settled conflict. The central government in Khartoum is still conducting its raids, the janjaweed continue to raid refugee camps, and the Darfuri rebels are still fighting back, even having attacked peacekeepers in the past.

As if the situation isn't bad enough, it's like to get much worse in the near future. Today, the International Criminal Court announced that its prosecutor has requested an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir on three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of murder. While it will be months before the ICC to rule on the application, but if the warrant is issued, President al-Bashir will "effectively turn al-Bashir into a prisoner in his own country. In the past, Interpol has issued so-called Red Notices for fugitives wanted by the court, meaning they should be arrested any time they attempt to cross an international border."

But even if the warrant isn't issued, the damage is already done. The UN, which backs the ICC, also maintains the current peacekeeping force in Darfur, and it seems unlikely that Sudan will allow the peacekeepers to remain if their political leaders face indictment and arrest. The removal of the peacekeeping force, as ineffectual as it has been, would likely herald the resumption of a massive cleansing campaign by the Sudanese government in an effort to "solve" the Darfur problem before international intervention occurs again (if it ever does). Furthermore, the BBC reported on Sunday that China was breaking the UN-imposed arms embargo on Sudan, "roviding military equipment and training pilots to fly Chinese jets." While this development is all that surprising, given the diversion of international pressure on China from Darfur to Tibet, it is a troubling one, as it signals, perhaps, the end of Chinese cooperation on Sudan.

Given the precarious nature of the international community's involvement in Darfur, the indictment of al-Bashir by the ICC was definitely ill-timed and most likely ill-advised. I've blogged several times before about the problems inherent in international justice and law, and this is no different. Given that al-Bashir is unlikely to ever stand trial, maintaining the peacekeeping presence was more important than making a point through law.

The international community needs to prepare itself for more attacks on the peacekeepers, if not their expulsion from Sudan. And if (and when) that happens, given China's backsliding, it is all but impossible for the UN to put together a stronger intervention. So, the burden and responsibility will likely fall on the United States and its NATO allies. Sudan must not be allowed to continue its murderous campaign against Darfur, and China must not be allowed to shield Sudan. President Bush and the heads of states and government of the western countries should immediately threaten to boycott the Olympics, not over Tibet (which is a lost cause) but over Chinese violations of the arms embargo and protection of Sudan. China must be leveraged away from Sudan.

However, while China may be willing to support increased sanctions on Sudan, it will not, nor will Russia, support an intervention without the permission of the Sudanese government. Thus, NATO needs to be ready, if it cares at all about saving the Darfuri people, to deploy a force to Sudan immediately. Anything less will likely condemn the people of Darfur to their doom.

1 comment:

csteve said...

Another very insightful post. Your take provides food for thought and also takes a little of the luster off the excitement of the indictment announcement.