SUDAN WATCH: Nato 'could step in to help in Darfur'

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Nato 'could step in to help in Darfur'

NATO's secretary general Japp de Hoop Scheffer, who held talks with Tony Blair yesterday, said:
"If African leaders would come, through the UN, to Nato, and ask Nato what could you do to support what we are doing, I think the Allies would have a very serious discussion."
Full Story at The Scotsman, Feb 3.
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Note, the above report quotes the secretary general as saying,
"Nato could (have a role), if the African Union and the UN would ask Nato, then Nato could I think - but that question is not on the table - Nato could give support, in command and control and logistical support, to an operation. But I think that, quite honestly, we should leave it to the Africans and the African Union to find a way of solving this indeed tragic and horrendous conflict".
Leave it to the Africans, and the African Union? African and Arab leaders often say the same thing. African leaders petitioning the United Nations to help Darfur? Sorry for being so negative here, but the tantalising prospect of NATO coming to the rescue of millions of people in the Sudan is probably just another story the politicians are spinning to the media to add pressure on Khartoum and placate those who are calling for action. NATO's secretary general also said:
"As far as Darfur is concerned, Nato is not involved, because the African Union is trying to set up a peace monitoring mission. The Security Council is divided, and Nato will not go and rush into Darfur. What I think is necessary, and that is an initiative stemming from the G8 group nations, I think much more should be done in the sphere of training African security forces so that they really can mount a serious peace-keeping and monitoring operation."
Note how nobody else is rushing into Darfur either. The AU have received hundreds of millions of dollars from the EU and US for the deployment of troops to Darfur. Recently, the AU confirmed they are not short of funds and claimed the delays are due to lack of accommodation for their soldiers in Darfur. Two million Sudanese are curently suffering with no accommodation because of lack of security. Surely AU soldiers could be temporarily accommodated in military tents.

Sudanese national policemen / Photo: AFP courtesy Moscow News
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2m dead - but still the world stands idly by

Lord Alton of Liverpool, an independent crossbench peer, writes the following must-read opinion piece published today in The Scotsman Feb 3, and copied here in full for future reference:

Imagine a military junta that has killed two million of its population of 32 million in the past two decades because of their skin colour and religion. Imagine a regime that has caused so much terror within its own borders that six million people are internally displaced. Is this a description of the Chinese in Tibet? Or Burma rebranded as Myanmar? Or, until recently, Indonesia in East Timor?

No, this is Sudan, described by the British ambassador to Khartoum in a London-cleared speech, as "on the threshold of a new era", and our great friend. In April last year, at the height of the state-sponsored killing in Darfur, William Patey boasted that British trade with Sudan was up 25 per cent and set to rise further.

The United Nations has released the report of a commission set up four months ago to determine whether genocide could be said to be happening in Darfur. Last September, Colin Powell, then US Secretary of State, determined it was occurring, and that the government of Sudan and its proxies, the Janjaweed, were to blame. While the commission deliberated, the World Health Organisation estimates 10,000 civilians died every week. Under pressure to act, it was the UN Security Council's masterstroke to set up the commission as a useful diversion. Shouldn't we do something about the government of Sudan burning hundreds of its own villages? No, we must wait until the UN commission reports.

Now, as the Sudanese government continues to bomb its own citizens, the international community has again found a way of avoiding any discussion of stopping the bloodshed. Returning to one of its favourite spats, Europe and the US are locked in a row about whether those responsible for crimes against humanity in Darfur should be sent to the International Criminal Court or a tribunal run by the UN and African Union. So, while 14 people die every hour in Darfur, the international community is talking about what to do with the people who are murdering them - after the war criminals have gone about their business, that is.

Unfortunately, the UN commission was politically compromised before it began its work. Whatever our politicians may say about Africa being a scar on their consciences, securing peace with the oil-rich south of Sudan is paramount. But while Tony Blair was in Khartoum in October, a German diplomat heard him assure a member of the Sudanese junta that Britain would not turn up the heat on Khartoum over Darfur because of fears of making Sudan a failed state, or provoking a coup.

The British diplomats in Khartoum, and their brothers around the international community, must be heaving a collective sigh of relief now that the UN report on Darfur has been published. By denying that genocide is occurring, it has, in effect, promised to continue looking the other way while the Sudanese kill their own citizens with impunity.

Further reading:

2 Feb Eric Reeves' critical analysis of the report of the international commission of inquiry on Darfur.

3 Feb Japan Times report says Japanese defence officials cool on Sudan - risks seen outweighing benefits to diplomatic image. Japanese peacekeeprs would not be able to go to Sudan anytime soon because it would require careful preparation, meaning a dispatch could not get under way until summer at the earliest. Having SDF troops participate in a Sudan mission could be possible, but there would be "a long way to go" one senior agency official said.

3 Feb Italy On Line, a special news service by AGI on behalf of the Italian Prime Minister's office, reports: "The UN report does not speak of genocide, but this does not take away from the seriousness of the violence in Darfur: 50-70,000 people massacred by the Janjaweed militias are an inerasable tragedy," said the Under Secretary to Foreign Affairs, Margherita Boniver, to the newspaper Avvenire. For Boniver, harsher sanctions "would be an important step. And the UN report takes us in that directions."


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