“If Not Now, When?”
In 1998, then-President Bill Clinton shamed the international community for not acting fast enough to quash a genocide in Rwanda. Today, Sudan’s Darfur region spirals dangerously close to the same scenarios seen just six years ago. The African Union (AU) appears poised to withdraw peacekeeping forces from Darfur on September 30 over Khartoum’s unwillingness to allow United Nations’ forces of 20,000 to quell the ever-growing humanitarian crisis in Sudan. And, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, whose organization passed a resolution to take over efforts from the AU, threatened to lay responsibility squarely on Khartoum should the peacekeeping effort collapse. Further, Annan has expressed his disappointment in Khartoum’s unwillingness to resolve the fighting swiftly. The Khartoum government and the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA; Group Profile), one of three rebel groups, signed a peace deal in May in exchange for government positions; however, violence continues unabated. Government forces are mobilizing in northern Darfur for an offensive that, according to the head of the AU, “would cripple the civilian population. The government is not making a secret of their desire to flush out the remains of the rebels…Whenever there is an upsurge in violence, there is always more collateral damage, the generation of (displaced people), more banditry, more rapes” (source). The AP reported that “the Sudanese government is indiscriminately bombing civilian-occupied villages” (source). If AU Troops Leave The AU mandate ends on September 30, and based on their inability to control sectarian violence and their desire to bring UN forces into Darfur, Sudan is likely to kick them out of the country and send thousands of government troops in. Should peacekeepers leave Darfur, the 3 million refugees already living in squalor will be dealt a death sentence. Ethnic violence, which has ebb-and-flowed for 3.5 years, is likely to spike, weapons will proliferate , and food and medical shortages would soon develop. International aid organizations would likely withdraw from the region due to ensuing insecurity. Grotesque death, destruction, and lawlessness would take hold. Even the spokesman for SLF leader Minni Minnawi said: “We call on the international community to send troops as soon as possible, because there is no security in Darfur, the situation is very bad” (source). Why So Anti-UN? President Omar al-Bashir is adamantly against allowing the UN into his country in fear of colonialization by western powers. He also fears that the international community will overthrow his regime. Further, al-Bashir likely wants to maintain his Janjaweed rebel forces , which peacekeepers would want to destroy. And, finally, he likely fears international interventionism in bringing friends and members of his administration to justice for human rights abuses and crimes against humanity. Russia , in abstaining from voting, sided with Sudan in rejecting the UN deployment. Russia is likely eying Sudan’s oil fields and wants to maintain cordial bilateral relations to continue its weapons’ sale to Sudan and oil consumption from Sudan. Conclusion An emergency meeting in neighboring Ethiopia resulted in agreement that AU troops might stay on longer if Sudan approves a transition to the UN. Al-Bashir rejected the plan, requiring the AU to accept Arab League and Sudanese funding, an effort by al-Bashir to make the AU reliant on and subservient to him. Ultimately, al-Bashir is not equipped to deal with the humanitarian crisis should the international presence withdraw or should he kick them out of Sudan. Either scenario?a harkening to the global collective amnesia of the days of the Rwandan genocide–seems increasingly likely, sealing a dreadful fate for the refugees caught in the middle.