Make-or-Break Time for Darfur

International Efforts Need Support from Khartoum and Warring Factions

Top officials from the UN, the EU, the US and the African Union have met in Brussels to address the worsening security situation in Darfur. International donors and stakeholders agreed to renew commitments to the peace process. Nina-Maria Potts reports

Soldier of the African Union in Darfur (photo: AP)
In Brussels, US officials declared that any UN force would be mainly made up of African troops – a pre-requisite for the government of Sudan

​​UN Secretary General Kofi Annan set the tone of the Darfur donors conference by saying the faltering peace deal – signed two months ago – could succeed, but not without the commitment of the Sudanese Government.

"After all," Mr. Annan said, "we are going there to help the government, we are going there to help their own people."

Aid agencies say Darfur is on the brink of imminent disaster since African Union forces on the ground need a serious injection of cash and equipment to sustain them, if they are to stay until early 2007. African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security Said Djinnit said 170 million dollars was needed to sustain the AU troops till the end of September; half of that money has already been committed, pledged or transferred.

But if the AU extended its mission as planned, it would need extra battalions, logistical support and equipment.

"We need additional resources with a view to sustaining the mission," Mr. Djinnit asserted. "That means with additional battalions."

UN officials said they had received word from Sudan that a detailed projection of what's needed over the next six months has made progress. If a nuts-and-bolts plan from the field is delivered in the next month, they said, the UN could determine how to proceed. But the real issue is what will happen to the peace deal.

Making peace with war criminals

AU Commissioner Said Djinnit said he was optimistic warring factions would join the peace process, saying it would be possible to accommodate them without undermining the peace process.

"Some have sent signals and indications that they would be willing to join, provided there is some accommodation."

UN Under-Secretary-General Jean-Marie Guehenno was perhaps more plain-speaking:

"It is essential to have progress on the political front, at the same time we have to plan on the assumption that even in the best of circumstances there will always be this commander and that militia that will not feel that it is bound by the agreement."

Talking tough

To the question of imposing sanctions on rebel groups failing to co-operate, it was US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer's turn to talk tough:

"We have already taken a decision in general that anyone violating ceasefire agreements and are undermining peace in Darur should be subject to sanctions and put on a UN list."

On the role of NATO in Darfur, US officials said even though NATO training would help troops, any UN force would be mainly made up of African troops – a pre-requisite for the government of Sudan.

Jendayi Frazer gave Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Senegal a pat on the back for their military standards – the key, she said, was shoring up the force.

"We don't want to do this in this rather ad-hoc-ish way."

The complexity of the situation in Darfur is making an international solution elusive. But while differences remain over the best way forwards, most agree this is make-or-break time for Darfur in determining its future.

Nina-Maria Potts

© Deutsche Welle 2006

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