Resigned to Damage Control: Time to Rethink Sudan

On March 24, 2005 the United Nations established the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) in order to oversee the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The hope was for the CPA to bring an end to the civil war that had been raging for years. One of the stipulations of this agreement was the allowance of a secession vote for the south. This vote took place this past January and southern secession is set to be implemented on July 9, 2011. This mission remains in effect today.

On July 31, 2007 the United Nations established the first ever hybrid mission known as the African Union/UN Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). This mission was created in response to growing international concern over the ongoing genocide in Darfur. It is the mandate of this mission to protect civilians, UN and NGO personnel as well as assist in the implementation the Darfur Peace Agreement. Just as UNMIS continues, UNAMID troops also remain on the ground in Sudan struggling to bring any sort of real peace to the people of Darfur.

On June 27, 2011 the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1990, establishing the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). It is the mandate of UNISFA to demilitarize Abyei, protect civilians and UN personnel, and enable NGOs to distribute food and supply basic medical care to civilians. This new mission calls for the dispersal of 4,200 troops to the Abyei region, as well as 50 police officers and additional civilian personnel.

Sensing a trend here?

There are now officially three UN missions in Sudan, all with a full Chapter VII mandates allowing for the use of force. Yet, with troop levels soon to be at over 30,000 in the midst of continued violence, one begins to wonder about the efficacy of the UN's current strategy in Sudan. Perhaps the problem is that there is no overarching strategy. What exists is a hodgepodge of reactionary attempts to quell violence without addressing the broader issues at hand. As a result, what are meant to be peacekeeping missions are ultimately delayed and ineffective attempts at damage control.

Arguably, one of the main underlying problems is the international community's continual sidestepping of the elephant in the room: impunity for Bashir. No real progress can be made toward peace in the region with a man in power who has countless warrants out for his arrest on charges including genocide and crimes against humanity. If the international community continually fails to address impunity and the root causes of conflict in Sudan, we will forever be resigned to exercises in damage control.

Without a broader, more holistic approach, including a specific focus on the implementation of justice, we will find ourselves having to come up with unlimited acronyms for missions to Sudan. Soon we will have to establish a UN mission to the Nuba Mountains, to South Kordofan, followed by multiple decades of monitoring the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which is currently being established along the North/South border. I find it hard to believe that anyone, particularly the Sudanese, would be thrilled by the possibility of endless international involvement. This, however, it exactly what we are headed for if we continue down this path.

Darfur, Sudan, United Nations