SUDAN WATCH: DARFUR: Sudan has all the potential ingredients to be a failed state - How to avoid another Iraqi quagmire in Sudan (Dr Paul Moorcraft)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

DARFUR: Sudan has all the potential ingredients to be a failed state - How to avoid another Iraqi quagmire in Sudan (Dr Paul Moorcraft)

People who cry out for military intervention (an act of war) in Darfur ought to take a few minutes to read a most insightful opinion piece by veteran war correspondent Dr Paul Moorcraft, a Brit who has worked in thirty war zones over twenty years and visits Sudan and Darfur regularly.

In my view, Dr Moorcraft's op-ed provides an excellent easy to read summary of Sudan's complex situation and rightly concludes Sudan has all the potential ingredients to be a failed state and that, quote:
"More important is the recognition that there is no military solution in Darfur. Neither side can win the war, nor can the AU (nor UN) impose peace where there is none. It will take nine months to a year for the AU to be beefed up. Use this precious time to enforce the peace process, not least in the Nigerian capital, Abuja."
Paul Moorcraft, formerly in the UK's Ministry of Defence, is now director of the Centre for Foreign Policy Analysis, London. The op-ed entitled How to avoid another Iraqi quagmire, published at icWales 23 March 2006, is copied here below, in full, for future reference.

Last weekend the African Union delayed its decision to hand over its peacekeeping role in Darfur to the UN. The repercussions, for Africa and the West, could be significant, writes Paul Moorcraft:

Dr Paul Moorcraft

GEORGE BUSH set the cat among the pigeons during an un-scripted question- and-answer session in Tampa, Florida, last month.

He said he wanted an expanded international role in Sudan's Darfur battleground, suggesting a "Nato stewardship". This statement caught many policy-makers off-guard, although there is a growing bi-partisan movement in the US Congress for a greater effort in the region, where hundreds of thousands have been displaced or killed.

At first glance there is much to be said for an augmented Nato role. Already the alliance and the European Union are assisting with logistics, especially American air transport, for the 7,000 peacekeepers of the African Union (AU) operating in Darfur. The US air force has transported tons of supplies and thousands of African troops, and provided some but not all of the promised $190m for training and building camps for peacekeepers. The idea is for the west to provide a stop-gap until a large UN force - perhaps 20,000 troops - can replace the AU. A more robust and better-led force could do much to prevent the tribal fighting.

This sounds good. The problem is: it won't work. Putting white, western, Christian troops on the ground in Darfur is the only thing which would unite all the warring tribes - but in a holy war against outsiders. Defence officials in London and Brussels caution Washington by invoking the debacle in Somalia in 1993. And, in the last few days, the Bush administration has been backpedaling.

Darfur has been consumed by a brutal conflict, but it is not genocide. Khartoum is accused of sending in Arab militiamen - the so-called Janjaweed - to wipe out African tribespeople. The complex origins are tribal and political, but not racial. Intermarriage makes it usually impossible to physically differentiate "African" from "Arab" among the 35 tribes and ethnic groups. Darfur's Arabs are black, indigenous African Muslims - just like Darfur's non-Arabs.

Darfur's conflict is founded on historical banditry and the struggle for grazing lands and water. It is also about national politics - Islamic extremists in Khartoum, disciples of the disgraced spiritual leader, Hassan al-Turabi, have stirred the pot in Darfur. Turabi has backed one rebel Darfur group with the express purpose of destabilising the new government of national unity in Khartoum. Western intervention would play into the hands of Turabi's Jihadists. The tribal politics of next-door Chad have also intervened.

In 2003, when the renewed fighting began in Darfur, military intelligence in Khartoum - believers in a military solution - acted aggressively to crush the rebels who claimed that their region had been marginalised.

There is already a framework for peace. Sudan, Africa's largest state, ended the continent's longest war in 2004 - the 50-year on-off struggle between the Islamic government in Khartoum and the largely Christian/animist south. Washington - aided by London and Oslo - banged heads together during the complex haggling in Kenya. The west invested much time, patience and political energy in securing the peace deal, which will lead to more than 10,000 UN troops being positioned in the south.

Both sides in Darfur have committed terrible atrocities, and disrupted one of the world's largest humanitarian aid programmes. Rightly, the overstretch in Iraq and Afghanistan has not blinded the US and London to the killing grounds in the three Darfur states, an area bigger than France.

Khartoum violently opposes UN military intervention (though it accepts the 13,000-strong UN- led humanitarian workforce). The new government of national unity - involving former warring parties from north and south - has said it might quit the AU, if that body decides to hand over to the UN. The government in Khartoum is under great pressure already; many within the former ruling Islamic junta argue that too much has been given away.

The new government in Khartoum could implode, not just along north-south lines, but also because of bitter divisions among Islamic hardliners. All the years of international negotiations would have been in vain. Sudan has all the potential ingredients to be a failed state.

UN troops have been accepted in the largely non-Muslim south; they would be treated very differently in the fervently Islamic west. At the beginning of March nearly one million militant Sudanese in the north personally pledged to fight a Jihad if western troops intervened.

This is not a call for inaction. More people are being killed in African wars than in all the rest of the world. But the number of UN troops has nearly quintupled since 1999, from 12,700 to over 60,000 (and a lot more if you add police and UN civilians). The system is under acute strain.

African Union credibility is at stake. It should not be seen to fail in its first real attempt at international peacekeeping. On March 10, the AU decided to extend its Darfur peace mission until September at the earliest, before a possible handover to the UN. And, yes, the AU force should increase its size.

More important is the recognition that there is no military solution in Darfur. Neither side can win the war, nor can the AU (nor UN) impose peace where there is none. It will take nine months to a year for the AU to be beefed up. Use this precious time to enforce the peace process, not least in the Nigerian capital, Abuja. Despite some useful US assistance there, the peace talks and ceasefires in Darfur have been relatively ineffective. What is required is the same international effort put into Sudan's north-south peace agreement signed in Kenya in January 2005.

The independent Sultanate of Darfur was conquered by the British 90 years ago. It is surely time for London and Washington, who played a highly credible political role in ending Sudan's north-south war, to do the same in the west.

Further reading:

Feb 2005 (Paul Moorcraft Abstract) Sudan: End of the Longest War? - The Royal United Studies Institute Journal.

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