Pronk says Sudan's response to UN takeover of AMIS could not be misunderstood: "We are against such a transition. This is our final answer"- Bashir
" ... [ ] In that political climate about two months ago a high level delegation, sent jointly by the African Union and the United Nations, came to Sudan to consult the Government about a transition from the present AU peace keeping force towards a UN force. As I wrote in one of my earlier weblogs (see nr 26) President Bashir's response could not be misunderstood: "We are against such a transition. This is our final answer". Several weeks later, at the Summit meeting of the African Union in Banjul, Gambia, he did not change his position. He promised the Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan, that the Sudanese Government would submit its ideas on a possible role for the United Nations in the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement. Whether such a role would imply more than humanitarian assistance and support for reconstruction and development remained unclear.
The uncertainty necessitated the UN and the AU to hold an international meeting in order to request donor countries to pledge finance for a continuation of the African Union peace force in Darfur. The meeting took place in Brussels, mid July. The AU had informed the UN that it could finance the troops in Darfur only until the end of the month and that for that reason the mandate of the AU, which lasted until October, could not be extended. Donors pledged enough financial resources to enable the AU to continue until the end of the year. The idea was that the UN could take over on 1 January 2007. The delegations left Brussels with the idea that such a transition was indeed possible, because the Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lam Akol, had declared that Khartoum had not yet taken a decision. This was understood as a tiny opening: as against what had been said by President Bashir, it seemed that the Government of Sudan had not yet decided against a transition. That the Government had not yet decided in favor of the transition was taken for granted: a few months time had been gained.
The optimism does not seem to be justified. First: close scrutiny of the financial commitments by the donors reveals that less money has been pledged than had been assumed. So-called 'new money' had been mixed with reconfirmation of pledges which had already been made earlier and had already been taken into account. Whether the African Union is indeed capable to continue after September is not yet certain.
Second, it seems that the tiny opening indicated by Lam Akol does not exist. Soon after the Brussels conference Sudanese politicians, addressing domestic audiences, declared that a transition towards a UN force is out of the question. There was no sign whatsoever the government was considering a u-turn or that an effort was made to prepare the population for a 'yes' instead of the repeatedly declared 'no' to the UN. On the contrary: President Bashir himself was quoted today as telling a rally in north Kordofan: "We shall never hand Darfur over to international forces which will never enjoy being in the region that will become their graveyard". And he cited Iraq, where despite the presence of international forces there is "destruction, damage and sedition between the Sunnis and Shiites instigated by Western intelligence, in addition to torture and killing of inmates in Abu Ghirab and other prisons".
It is a preposterous statement, but all over Sudan the audiences swallow such tirades. The opposition, including both the parties led by such different ideologues as Turabi and El Mahdi, has declared to be in favor of a UN peace keeping force in Darfur. But the NCP assumes that they s only say so because they are against the Government. Minnie Minawi has said to welcome the UN. However, since he has signed the DPA he does not carry much weight anymore in the eyes of the hard core NCP. Vice President Kiir and other SPLM politicians have publicly taken distance from the NCP: "Why is the UN welcome in Southern Sudan but not in Darfur. What makes Darfur so different from us in the South?" However, they know that in the eyes of the Northern politicians the South may be a protectorate which they may let go, Darfur is theirs. It is their un-alienable property; it is part of their history, part of the very existence of Sudan. That Darfurians think differently is for them another reason to reject a role for the UN: the international community might eventually take sides against the regime in Khartoum. The NCP politicians have not forgotten that only two years ago Western countries were considering 'regime change' in Sudan.
No wonder that in this situation President, instead of mellowing his stance, has taken a hard line. In doing so he does not risk his domestic political position. His regime is based on a number of groups with different interests, but united in their aspiration to cling to the power in the country. He has skillfully carried out several balancing acts to stay at the top. His strong stance against foreign intervention has reaffirmed his position. Since a couple of months the President himself has taken the lead in the debate. He was the first to link the situation in Lebanon with the one in Darfur: "If they (i.e. the UN) really want to protect the people of Darfur, what are they doing about the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and Palestine and the killing of women, children and innocents there?" This statement is no less preposterous as the one quoted above. After all, the killing of innocent citizens in Darfur was done by Sudanese themselves. The Sudanese Government bears a heavy responsibility for those atrocities. However, nobody can deny that the Israeli attacks in response to the provocation by Hezbollah, the fate of the women and children in South Lebanon, the destruction of the civilian infrastructure in Beirut and the US rejection of an immediate cease fire has reaffirmed the belief of many in the Arab and Muslim world that the Western countries see them as dispensable. In their view the UN is part of a Western conspiracy. They are wrong. However, they believe that they are right and they can point at many facts which reinforce their opinion. The fact that the UN kept its promise in Kassala and withdrew when the job was finished, does not carry much weight in comparison with its inability to halt attacks and to protect the people in Lebanon.
Soon the Security Council will have to take a decision about a UN peace keeping force in Darfur. Will the resolution containing that decision have a better fate than its resolutions concerning Lebanon and the Palestinians? Or is there a Plan B?
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Aug 1 2006 Jan Pronk Weblog: Is there a Plan B? Most victims are Africans, pursued and killed by Arab militia and Arab Janjaweed
Aug 3 2006 Activists, pundits and mainstream media, not Khartoum, are sending mixed messages about UN troops in Darfur
Aug 3 2006 Sudan accepts AU troops not under UN umbrella - calls for UN sanctions on NRF terrorists - says UN undermines AU: Sudan said on Aug 3 that its plan to disarm the Janjaweed will not be made public, and allowing UN troops to take over from an AU monitoring mission in Darfur would be a violation of the Darfur Peace Agreement.