Sunday, December 05, 2004

John Danforth: Hope to bring peace in Darfur. Danforth's tenure was marked by frustration with U.N. weaknesses

After reading the below copied report, it seems we are clutching at straws hoping for the UN Security Council to take action against Sudan when they won't even mention the word sanctions.

Considering what the African Union President said yesterday, just a few hours after meeting with President Bush at the White House- that he did not believe Darfur was genocide - one has to start coming to terms with the probability that the UN Commission investigating genocide in Darfur, may declare Darfur as ethnic cleansing and maybe crimes against humanity, but not genocide.

After seven months of blogging almost daily about Darfur, the whole horrific mind blowing story and ways of the world get more sickening as each day passes. Maybe it's too late at night right now to feel any glimmer of hope for Darfur. Perhaps things will look more hopeful in the morning. Doubt it though - unless something drastic happens, like Khartoum falling to the rebels or Kofi Annan stepping down. What else is there? There's no way a state of emergency will be declared and Darfur turned into a UN Protectorate. Who else can do anything except a new Secretary-General during a honeymoon period? Any of those options are not an overnight deal. My hopes are that the international community are working behind the scenes to support the rebels (which is what I believe they have been doing all along) and the regime in Khartoum will soon be overthrown.

Whatever, nothing much will happen until January. Back in May, it was agreed by Sudan that thousands of peacekeepers would enter the country to monitor the newly signed peace deals and ceasefire agreements. Final peace agreements are scheduled to be signed December 31. Right now, blogging about Darfur feels so pointless. Some days it's soul destroying. Imagine what John Danforth must have been thinking in the still of the night after meetings with the UN Security Council and Khartoum. Like I said, it's late at night and I am going to sleep now. God bless everyone on the ground in Sudan - and God help them, they sure need a miracle to happen. I'll pray for them.

The following editorial by reporter Jon Sawyer appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch New York Daily News today. It gives a good insight into the frustrating time Ambassdor Danforth had in his post and, reading between the lines, the no-hope situation for millions of Sudanese if the peace deals and ceasefire agreements fall apart.

John C. Danforth
( Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON - He was seen as a moderating influence within a conservative administration, a conciliatory figure with the potential to soothe tensions on a U.N. Security Council where anti-U.S. hostilities still ran strong.

As U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John C. Danforth met those expectations, to an extent, by embracing compromise proposals to nudge Sudan toward peace while forging unusually warm relations with other U.N. ambassadors. Yet as he leaves the post, announcing Thursday that he wants to return home to St. Louis to spend more time with his wife and family, the irony is that Danforth is more skeptical himself of the United Nations, and certainly more frustrated, than when he took the job in July.

The frustrations spilled out during a long conversation with the Post-Dispatch Nov. 20, two days before Danforth formally submitted his resignation to President George W. Bush. The interview took place aboard Air Force Two, en route home from what was arguably Danforth's greatest triumph, taking the entire Security Council membership to Nairobi, Kenya, to press for an end to Sudan's 21-year civil war.

It was the first time in 14 years that the council had met outside New York, only the fourth in half a century, and the gamble appeared to have paid off. The two-day meeting ended with all 15 council members united, standing behind representatives of Sudan's government and the main Southern rebel group as they signed a memorandum pledging to conclude final peace talks by Dec. 31.

U.N. weaknesses

Yet as Danforth reviewed the trip, and his overall tenure, he appeared more conscious of what hadn't been done, of what - given the current U.N. environment - couldn't be done.

"What's the Security Council?" he mused. "It is the only real power within the United Nations, and it's a very weak power."

Danforth said that in his view the Nairobi trip had demonstrated the council's main strength - "the ability to put serious problems front and center" - but also its weakness, the system of vetoes and super majorities that prevented it from exercising "its power to do more than that, to actually act."

He was even more dismissive of the General Assembly ("basically just a debating society") and of a secretariat that has become bogged down in the Iraq oil-for-food inquiry and other scandals.

The five months since Danforth was sworn in by his old friend, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, have seen a litany of setbacks:

No progress on what had been billed as a major goal: Getting the United Nations to take on a larger role in planning and oversight of the Iraq elections now set for Jan. 30.

A quick shootdown of the suggestion he floated in September: That the United Nations create a group of leaders from different religious faiths to address the religious component in so much current violence. It set off nearly as many alarms within the State Department as among countries like China and Russia.

On Israel and the Palestinians, more of the same. Danforth had no more success than previous U.S. ambassadors at getting the world body past the posturing that has been reflexively anti-Israel. The one Security Council veto he cast was to block a resolution condemning Israel.

"It was unbelievable when Yasser Arafat died," Danforth said, recalling the speeches by council members following the death of the Palestinian leader last month that portrayed him "in the most heroic terms."

Petty bureaucratic rules, from having to vet what he said with the State Department to ethics rules that said his wife couldn't ride alone in his official limousine even if it was only to pick him up en route to an official engagement.

The council's trip to Nairobi was itself the product of frustration, Danforth's inability over the preceding three months to get the council even to threaten sanctions against Sudan for its alleged human-rights violations in the western region of Darfur.

Danforth railed at the human-rights groups and media, especially The Washington Post, that have faulted the administration for not pressing hard enough on Darfur, where an estimated 70,000 individuals have died and 1.6 million have been driven from their homes.

"The Washington Post said Darfur was another Rwanda, that the U.S. government and Bush don't care and that if they cared they could stop this," Danforth said. "But they didn't have the gut to say how they would do it. Did they propose armed intervention? An attack on Khartoum [the Sudan capital]? They wouldn't say. Did they propose occupying an area the size of France in perpetuity? They didn't say. They pulled their punch.

"What's the chance of the Security Council authorizing a military response if we can't even use the word 'sanctions'?"

Whether the government of Sudan and the leading rebel group in southern Sudan follow through on a promised peace deal by Dec. 31 remains to be seen, as does the council's premise that resolution of the north-south civil war will make possible an end to violence in Darfur.

Danforth said he alone had decided to take the council to Nairobi - "I woke up one morning and thought we should go," he recalled. Darfur had been on center stage since before he took up the U.N. post. But in the face of strong opposition from China, Russia and pro-Sudan Muslim members of the council, the resolutions he got through the council skirted even the mention of sanctions.

So Danforth took a risk, persuading the council to make the unusual trip to Africa and then persuading the Pentagon to supply the U.S. jet that ferried them there. What he especially liked, he said, was the opportunity for the 15 Security Council ambassadors to spend time together and to work toward a common goal.

"I think this has been a great thing for the council," he said. "Little stuff, like having this plane - it created a camaraderie that's very helpful. The council really felt good" when the peace memorandum was signed, he added. "They felt they were acting together, doing something important, that they had accomplished something."

Danforth insisted that in orchestrating a potentially risky trip he was simply carrying out Bush administration policy.

"The president has an interest in Sudan, in fixing Sudan. That was the impetus of my being asked to do this job.

"So the question was: What do we do about it? I've not viewed myself as having a policy role. I don't know where policy stops and where going out and making it work begins."

That Sudan preoccupied Danforth during most of his U.N. tenure made sense, given his role as Bush's envoy for that country's peace process since 2001 and the prominence of Darfur now. In his resignation letter to the president Danforth said he was open to taking on such specific tasks again, so long as he could do them from a St. Louis base.

Even as he vented on the parts of the job he disliked, Danforth made it clear that home and family, especially his wife, Sally, were the overwhelming factors that had led him to cut short his diplomatic career.

"Projects are one thing," he said. "A full-time job outside of St. Louis is another. Basically what I am is a St. Louis guy married to a St. Louis girl for 47 years. I would like to spend more time with both of them."
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John Danforth: Hope to bring peace in Darfur

The following editorial appeared online at NewsFromRussia.Com December 4, 2004.

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Danforth, says the recently signed peace memorandum between the government of Sudan and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement offers the best hope to end the humanitarian crisis and bring peace in Darfur, in the western part of country.

The 15-member UN Security Council traveled to Nairobi, Kenya last month to oversee the signing of the memorandum, which calls for a signed peace agreement between the two sides to end civil war that has ravaged Sudan for 21 years. It was only the fourth time in its history that the Security Council has met outside of the United Nations' New York headquarters, says Voice of America.

According to Reuters, Danforth, 68, wrote his resignation letter on Nov. 22 but it was not released by the White House until Thursday. He told reporters he did not want "to sign on for a four-year stint at this point in my life."

"What I really want to do is go home. I mean it's really just as simple as that," he said. "What's most important to me is my wife and my home and having more time with both. I'm a St. Louis guy."

In a speech in St. Louis last month, Danforth said that as a former senator, he was not accustomed to having a policy statement vetted by Washington bureaucrats and transformed into "mush" before he could issue it.

But he said this was not the reason for his resignation because he knew the job entailed representing the view of the U.S. government and not an individual.

UN diplomats said Danforth's tenure at the UN would be remembered for his efforts to press the Sudanese government to end the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, including the Nov. 18-19 Security Council meetings in Kenya that produced a commitment by government and rebel forces to end a 20-year civil war in Sudan.

Danforth "was seen as someone passionate about this issue but, unfortunately, for reasons beyond his control, the Security Council wasn't willing to act on Darfur, which is another stain on the institution," Feinstein said.

The former senator "was frustrated because we have to do all this work to get language that everyone can support, so at the end we do not get anything bold and clear," said Ambassador Abdallah Baali of Algeria, president of the Security Council this month. "I will miss him because he brought a new spirit to the council and I really bonded with him", reports Bloomberg.

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