Mzansi Afrika

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Thursday, July 29, 2004

The African Union approach to Darfur

The African Union has released the resolutions that were made at the Peace and Security Council meeting in Ethiopia earlier this month. I have summarised and highlighted some of the major resolutions, the words in bold are also bolded in the AU  communique:
1. Reiterates its deep concern over the grave situation that still prevails in the Darfur region of the Sudan, in particular the continued attacks by the Janjaweed militia against the civilian population, as well as other human rights abuses and the humanitarian crisis;

2. Council stresses the urgent need for the Government of the Sudan (GoS) to expeditiously implement its commitment to neutralize and disarm the Janjaweed militia and other armed groups and to bring to justice the perpetrators of human rights abuses.  Council also reiterates the need for the rebel forces to be cantoned at mutually agreed sites;

3. Stresses the need for the AU to continue to lead the efforts to resolve the crisis in Darfur and, in this respect, welcomes the support extended by the international community, including the UN Security Council. Council calls on the latter and all the AU partners to continue to support these efforts, including financial and logistical assistance to sustain the AU-led mission deployed in Darfur and to enhance its effectiveness;

They also "call upon" all conflicting parties to stick to the ceasefire agreement, and " urges the parties to agree, as soon as possible, on a general framework for the pursuit of the dialogue, including the agenda of the discussions and their venue;"
Another resolution "stresses the need for a speedy resumption of the dialogue and calls on the parties to be represented at the highest level at the next round of the political talks, with a clear mandate, and to negotiate in good faith with the view to achieving a lasting solution to the Darfur conflict;"
I find the language that they have used very interesting, we call upon, we stress, we reiterate, we urge. No we "demand," we "insist."
The closest mention of anything remotely to do with military force, is this resolution:
Takes note of the progress made in the deployment of the military observers and the steps taken towards the deployment of the Protection Force, provided for by the Agreement of 28 May 2004 on the Establishment of the CFC (Ceasefire Commission) and the Deployment of Military Observers, and whose mandate, as per the understanding reached during the 3rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly, includes the protection, within the capacity of the Force, of the civilian population. Council welcomes the decision by Nigeria and Rwanda to contribute troops for the Protection Force;
Clearly in point 3, the AU is insisting on handling the situation themselves, without military intervention from non-African countries - although one of the resolutions does state that humanitarian aid from the international community will be welcomed. According to "This Day" Thabo Mbeki who met yesterday with the French foreign minister,  turned down an offer to send French troops to Darfur. The Mail & Guardian online quotes an envoy of the AU chairperson, General Abdulsalami Abubaker saying that "The Darfur problem is a purely African one that has to be resolved by the AU." I think it's commendable in theory that the AU wants to handle the problem themselves, but do they have the capacity or even the political will to do the job? The somewhat watered down language of the resolutions is hardly threatening to Sudan, and doesn't indicate a strong political will to me. The AU also seems to be emphasising a solution based on talks and dialogue, rather than one based on military action. Talks and dialogue take a long time, and the people in Darfur don't have time. Opposing groups can take years to reach an agreement, and even once an agreement has been reached, there is still no guarantee of peace. We've seen this with Burundi and now in the eastern DRC, where a year later, the signed peace agreement is crumbling, with renewed fighting and civilian displacements. 
Does the AU have the necessary capacity in terms of peacekeeping troops? This may be a problem. The AU had planned to send about 300 troops to Darfur by the end of this month to protect its team of observers and monitors overseeing the  ceasefire agreement. Well so far the monitors have not been able to remotely enforce the ceasefire agreement, and as Sapa reports, the AU has delayed deployment of a protection force to Darfur from end July, to early August, due to logistical problems. This, because Nigeria and Rwanda, who were to supply the troops,  are still busy trying to sort out their forces. It does not seem like the AU solution is going to be of any immediate help to the people of Darfur.


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