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Peacekeeping in Darfur

UNOn Tuesday, the UN Security Council finally authorized the establishment of a new peacekeeping force (UNAMID) for Darfur.

According to the new Resolution 1769, the size of the operation is quite significant: comprising of up to 19,555 military personnel and a civilian component, including up to 3,772 police personnel and 19 formed police units of up to 140 personnel each, this will probably be the largest of the current 15 active peacekeeping forces deployed around the world.

  • Short recollection of the facts: The conflict in Darfur has so far displaced over 2.5 million people and led to the death of approximately 400,000 since the beginning of hostilities in 2003. The conflict has its roots in a variety of reasons, mainly the long periodes of drought during the last decades (resulting in acute water deficit), massive overpopulation, desertification and political opportunism, leading to rivalries between different political and ethnical fractions, mainly the Sudanese military and the Janjaweed (a militia group comprised of mainly nomadic Arabic-speaking African tribes) on the one side, and various rebel groups on the other. According to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon: “Amid the diverse social and political causes, the Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change.”

The UNAMID-operation will be a joint operation by the UN and the African Union (AU). It can be expected that the bulk of the personnel will be provided by African States, which might increase the chances of the troops to be permitted to enter Darfur and to actually be accepted by the locals (which in all probability will prove to be a crucial factor for the peace process overall). However, one has to keep in mind, that there is already a AU force deployed in Darfur. The fact that this force (AMIS; comprising of 7,000 poorly armed troops) has not been able to bring peace (let alone stability) to the region is one of the reasons for why the strong backing of the UN was absolutely crucial for the new peacekeeping force.

Nevertheless, one of the most prominent problems that this new operation, which will begin no later than October 2007, will face is the funding. According to initial estimations, the operation, which is set for an initial period of 12 month, will cost the UN almost 2 billion US dollars. It will be interesting to see whether the member States will manage to collect this money. Previous peacekeeping missions have had significant problems with the funding and it is very likely that this problem will repeat itself in the current case.

Another interesting fact about the Security Council resolution 1769 is the condition that it was adopted unanimously. Previous resolutions on Darfur have not been able to gather the support of notably China, which has extensive business relations with Khartoum. One of the prices the current resolution had to pay in order to receive the support of China, however, was the leaving out of any threat of sanctions. However, the Security Council did mention Chapter VII of the UN Charter as the basis for its current action, providing “that UNAMID is authorised to take the necessary action (…) in order to (…) protect its personnel, facilities, installations and equipment, support early and effective implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement, prevent the disruption of its implementation and armed attacks, and protect civilians, without prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of Sudan”.

According to the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, the Security Council by supporting resolution 1769, is “sending a clear and powerful signal of [its] commitment to improve the lives of the people of the region, and close this tragic chapter in Sudan’s history.” Asked about how the UN Secretariat interprets the mentioning of the protection of civilians in the resolution, a spokesperson merely claimed that the UN was pleased that the protection of civilians was included in the resolution. That principle was one that the UN has consistently advocated.

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