SUDAN WATCH: Darfur Peace Agreement: Alex de Waal suggests a more comprehensive approach to the key issue of disarmament

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Darfur Peace Agreement: Alex de Waal suggests a more comprehensive approach to the key issue of disarmament

In his opinion piece Darfur's fragile peace (Open Democracy 5 July 2006 - via CFD and POTP) Alex de Waal suggests that a collapse of the Darfur Peace Agreement could be averted by a more comprehensive approach to the key issue of disarmament.

In short, a piece-by-piece plan over 5 years; key is the vision of what the Darfur peacekeeping mission is there to do; ask clan elders what their problems are and work collaboratively to solve them. Excerpts:
- A purely military solution to the janjaweed problem would be large, long and costly. The basic rule of thumb for suppressing insurgencies is that a force ration of ten to one is required. This implies an intervention force of 200,000 for an indefinite period.

- There are many reasons to criticise the Darfur Peace Agreement. But its provisions for disarming the janjaweed are not among them.

- It is not at all clear that the Sudan government could actually disarm them [janjaweed]. The army doesn't have much control outside its main garrisons and it certainly doesn't have the capacity to force the janjaweed to submit.

- The trick is to break the problem down into manageable chunks and deal with them one by one. This is precisely what the DPA does.

- It will take time to collect weapons - a minimum of five years, according to specialists - but the fruits in terms of increased security will be seen much earlier.

Among those who helped to design the Darfurian template in the DPA were former guerrillas and military officers who had run similar programmes in Ethiopia and Somaliland, as well as other parts of Sudan. They advised patience: a painstaking process of building confidence was first necessary. Peacekeeping troops would be necessary, but as long as they built up good relations with local leaders, their "force multiplier" would be those tribal chiefs themselves.

This approach points to a different kind of foreign intervention: smaller, smarter, and with a long-term perspective. Numbers, armaments and mandate may be important, but the key is the vision of what the mission is there to do. A force commander who knows that his troops will be on the ground for five years at least, and who regards tribal leaders and the commanders of community defence groups as his allies in a collective effort, will do far more with far less. A robust, quick reaction force may be needed for trouble-spots and to inspire confidence, but it should be ancillary to the main objective of the mission.

This is not fanciful. The level of bloodshed and turmoil in rural Somalia in 1993 was no less than Darfur today. 30,000 United States marines failed to control it. The last outpost outside Mogadishu where the marines remained was the town of Baardheere (Bardera) and the surrounding area. It was the toughest assignment and nobody wanted to take it over from a full-strength mechanized marine battalion with air support.

Finally, 200 Botswanans came in, with open-sided desert vehicles, no armour and no helicopters. "You'll never go outside the base", advised the departing American colonel. Within six weeks the Botswanans had made more progress in controlling the district than the Americans had made in six months. Their approach was simple: they asked the clan elders what their problems were and worked collaboratively to solve them.

Similarly, a few dozen unarmed ceasefire monitors kept the peace in the Nuba mountains, in the Kordofan region of Sudan that neighbours Darfur, for three years, following a conflict that was in many ways just as vicious as in Darfur.
Note, Alex de Waal concludes by saying:
At the time of writing, it seems likely that a number of factors – the failure of the Abdul Wahid Mohamed Nur faction of the SLM to sign the agreement, the weakness of the Minni Minawi faction (which has signed), widespread distrust of the Khartoum government, and the incapacity of the African Union – will soon make the Darfur Peace Agreement a dead letter. An historic opportunity will have gone by. But the basic formula of a solution will remain unchanged.
Alex de Waal is a fellow of the Global Equity Initiative at Harvard University, and a director of Justice Africa. He has been an advisor to the African Union mediation group facilitating the Darfur peace negotiations. His books include Famine that Kills: Darfur, Sudan, 1984-5 (Oxford University Press, 1989; revised edition, 2005), Islamism and Its Enemies in the Horn of Africa (Indiana University Press, 2004), and (with Julie Flint) Darfur: A Short History of a Long War (Zed Books, 2006). Also by Alex de Waal in openDemocracy: "The African state and global governance" (30 May 2003)


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