Why a more robust force in Darfur needs to be a UN force
"Before the Security Council can take further decisions concerning the proposed transition towards a UN peace force in Darfur, it expects to receive an assessment of the situation in Darfur and of the possible modalities of a take-over. It is self evident that his should be a joint assessment, carried out by experts from both the AU and the UN. However, the Government has already declared that an assessment mission would not be welcome. After all, so they say, why would an assessment be necessary if there is no transition? Minister of Foreign Affairs Lam Akol has even declared that a transition, if any, would only imply a change of the present AU mandate into a new AU mandate. So far, the African Union has not corrected this surprising interpretation. Neither has the AU approached the Sudanese authorities requesting permission for an assessment. It seems that we are in a deadlock.
In Abuja there is progress, however. Early this month I paid another visit to the negotiations, my fourth time since the beginning of his year. I concluded that as far as the two substantial chapters are concerned - sharing of power and sharing of wealth - further talks will not help. Time is ripe for decisions, to cut the knot and strike a bargain. This could happen soon. We may expect a fresh position of SPLM within the Government of National Union. SPLM so far has supported its coalition partner, the NCP. However, it has come under pressure to take a more independent and forthcoming stance. From his side President Beshir seems to have instructed his negotiating team to define a possible deal.
The talks concerning the third chapter, security and cease fire arrangements, are also showing some progress. The military experts at both sides are talking with each other. A certain mutual understanding seems to emerge. For the first time the SLA has disclosed the positions which it claims to hold. The mediators have become engaged in some mapping of positions. If parties would recognize each others strengths and positions, mediators could try to convince them to freeze the status quo. Thereupon positions could be consolidated in the medium term, creating space for further peace talks - including the start of an all inclusive Darfur-Darfur dialogue - and for disarmament and demobilisation.
The African Union intends to reach an agreement around end April. Calling this a deadline would not be credible. The parties, despite the commitments made by all of them, had so clearly disregarded the previous deadline (31 December 2005) that setting a new one would not make much sense. End April is an objective which could be reached, in particular if the parties and the mediators would not aim at complete, unambiguous texts. The text of the so-called Enhanced Humanitarian Cease Fire Agreement which seems to emerge from the present talks is much better than the D'Jamena cease fire agreement of May 2005. However, it is also more complicated, because of the zoning of positions, which have to be verified, and the introduction of buffer zones and corridors between the zones, which requires checking and monitoring of troop movements. I am afraid that the African Union peace force in Darfur, given its present size, strength and composition, will not be able to carry out that task. Success in the talks may breed failure on the ground. The only way to avoid a new failure is to bring a more robust force to Darfur. In my view that can only be a UN force."