Speaking at the former leftist stronghold Wad Medani back November 17 last year, Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir told listeners, “The elements from Sweden and Norway are in fact intelligence from Mossad and the CIA.”
These Scandinavians are military engineers which were set to participate in the United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur ( UNAMID) deployed to Darfur since Jan. 1, 2008. The Sudanese President has similarly resisted deployment of Thai and Nepalese battalions, demanding that the UNAMID force be all-African, save for Chinese and Pakistani contingents. As things stand, just 9000 of the projected 26000 troops are on the ground, something UN and Sudanese officials will haggle over at the AU summit set for January 31 in Addis Ababa.
While Al-Bashir’s misunderstanding – willful or otherwise – of the profound disdain for the United States and Israel held by secular, “post-modern” European elites – of which foreign policy wonks in Sweden and Norway might well be a vanguard – is perhaps a topic for another day. What matters in the immediate term is that after years of lily-livered western diplomacy UNAMID is now set up to fail in Darfur. Recall that UNAMID is a watered-down version of the U.N. peacekeeping operation originally proposed by the Aug. 31, 2006 UN Security Council Resolution 1706. Proponents of that force did little to resist Khartoum and Beijing collaboration to scupper its deployment.
Stalling UN Forces
|These Scandinavians are military engineers which were set to participate in the United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur.|
While Khartoum initially denied involvement in an attack by “Sudanese Armed Force (SAF) elements” on a UNAMID convoy near Tine, west Darfur, to quote the UN Security Council non-binding statement issued after the event, UN Peacekeeping Operations head Jean-Marie Guehenno described otherwise, before telling reporters at UN headquarters in New York about the lack of support being granted to UNAMID.
“Five months after the adoption of Resolution 1769 (setting up UNAMID), we do not yet have guarantee or agreements from the Government [of Sudan] on the basic technical issues,” Guehenno said. “The mission itself will not have the personnel or assets in place to implement its mandate for many months even in the best case scenario,” he added, noting that no offers for essential transportation and aviation assets had been made, including 24 helicopters.
For Khartoum’s dominant National Congress Party (NCP), stalling UNAMID is part of a longer term strategic dilemma. As part of its role to maintain peace between the waring groups in Darfur, UNAMID will likely oversee the election process if to happen in the region, a scenario not desired by NCP. Sudanese national elections are scheduled for 2009 and if these are free and fair, the NCP will struggle to retain power. Since taking power in 1989, Al-Bashir sidelined and then jailed Hassan al-Turabi, the Muslim Brotherhood ideologue behind that coup.
|For Khartoum’s dominant National Congress Party (NCP), stalling UNAMID is part of a longer term strategic dilemma.|
Other North Sudanese parties – traditional powerbrokers such as the Umma party and the Democratic Unionist Party – are lining up to recapture old support. The NCP will struggle to garner significant backing in eastern Sudan or in Darfur, leaving the NCP dependent on a couple of Arab tribes along the River Nile, with mass defections to the South Sudan counterpart – the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) – reported among Arab tribes in Kordofan. The Darfurian Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) – rebels backed by Chad and allegedly linked to al-Turabi – claiming that Arabs in that region are disavowing old alliances with the NCP.
Overshadowing the elections is the likelihood that South Sudan will secede in 2011, potentially taking with it much of Sudan’s oil – pending resolution of the status of the oil-rich Abyei region. Although UNAMID looks to be still-born, the NCP doubtless still feels encircled, with 10,000 UN troops in South Sudan and disputed regions along the putative North-South border. However, should conflict and displacement continue in Darfur, elections will become almost impossible to hold.
As Khartoum stalls UNAMID on core issues, such as drawing the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), donor states have shown scant willingness to provide necessary logistical and transport back-up, failing to set up UNAMID to the degree necessary.
Sending in Other Forces
Instead, some European countries are sending a European Union mission (EUFOR) to Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR). The bulk of the force is due in February 2008 – though the Darfurian refugees whom EUFOR is designated to protect, now languishing in Chadian camps, should not hold their breath. EUFOR was originally set to deploy last October, but squabbles between contributing states over logistical support and helicopter provision put paid to that.
|Overshadowing the elections is the likelihood that South Sudan will secede in 2011, potentially taking with it much of Sudan’s oil.|
France will provide over half the EUFOR troops, prompting strenuous efforts by NGOs and the new UN mission to Chad and the CAR (MINURCAT), established under the same UN Security Council Resolution that authorized EUFOR, to outline to Chadians in particular the division of labor and various mandates involved for all.
France maintains around 1200 troops in Chad on a bilateral basis, and these are seen by Khartoum-backed Chadian rebels as an effective praetorian guard for President Idriss Deby, who, like al-Bashir in Sudan, took power in a military coup and has no real democratic credentials. How these same rebels differentiate between EUFOR and the pre-existing French garrisons remain unclear, and at least one of Chad’s alphabet-soup myriad of insurgents has threatened to take EUFOR on.
This group – the Union of Forces for Democracy and Development – is backed by Khartoum, as acknowledged by its leader in a phone interview given from Libreville with Agence France Press. Darfurian refugees and eastern Chadian civilians have recounted how Chadian rebels have had support from the notorious Janjaweed militia, accused of mass murder and rape in Darfur since 2004. With the Chadian air force bombing SAF positions in western Darfur in recent weeks, EUFOR deployment will only heighten tensions between Khartoum and N’djamena, with SAF airstrikes on JEM targets in the same west Darfur region reported over last weekend.Show