Sunday, March 05, 2006

An armed Darfur is a peaceful Darfur

The step by step guide is an interesting best case course of action for Darfur, but I think that it lacks applicability to this conflict as we find it on the ground. Regarding the points in order:

1- Enlarge Peacekeeping force, carry on with humanitarian efforts, continue until law and order is restored

Enlarging the peacekeeping force, especially from the pool of peacekeepers being considered (AU and Arab League) absent strong controls and a commitment to military justice and discipline will certainly not restore law and order, instead will tend to break down law and order. A recent report about refugees in Africa by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees points to widespread and systemic exploitation of women and girls by aid workers and peacekeeping forces among three different peacekeeping operations in Africa. (UNHCR) The Independent newspaper in London asserted, based on their own investigation, that these findings do not go far enough to describe the problem: “There is a very serious problem with sexual exploitation of particularly young teenage girls, in this case in vulnerable communities, by a range of people in positions of power." (Independent) Refugees International echoes these sentiments: “Nevertheless, there does appear to be a relationship between the number of international peacekeepers and aid workers and sexual trafficking and prostitution. Furthermore, no matter the actual extent of the problem, the perception of the problem has serious implications for the overall credibility of the UN.” (Refugees International) In this region, at this time, peacekeepers do not seem to be a reasonable solution.

2- Investigate. Send members of all parties who are guilty of violating international law to the ICC. If the government refuses, take them by force. This shows that the international community is not messing around anymore.

Taking the government of a sovereign country is an act of war and is especially problematic if they are being “taken” only to try them in court. The ICC operates on the premise that suspects are innocent until proven guilty, but declaring war would be a de facto declaration that the leaders of the government, against whom war is declared, are guilty. Declaring war to determine whether someone is guilty is illogical on its face, and would never be approved by the UN or any member state.

3- Begin disarmament process, and at the same time, start to bring back some of the refugees. This would also be a good time to hold negotiations.

There is no evidence that disarming the parties solves the problem or refugees, village burning or leads to negotiation. In fact, assuming disarmament does these things is counter-intuitive. Recent history shows that peace comes not when the parties are disarmed, but when the parties are armed equally. The Soviet Union was fought to a stalemate in Afghanistan when the US begin sending arms to the mujahadeen. The Kurds in Northern Iraq were free of fear from Saddam when the no-fly zone and infusion of arms prevented the Baathist forces from entering the region to kill as they had previously. India and Pakistan’s first instinct is to negotiate, now that both openly possess nuclear weapons. China and Taiwan have enjoyed 60+ years of peace, North and South Korea, 50+ years and the Pacific has been free of Japanese aggression because all are armed in rough balance. When we see an imbalance, or when one side has no arms to defend itself, that is when we see atrocities as we have seen in the German ghettos of the 30’s, and recently in Rwanda, towards the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq and anyplace there are defenseless people arrayed against brutal men with guns such as in Darfur.

A much surer path to negotiations than more peacekeepers or disarmament would be to arm those people without a means to defend themselves so they can fight to a stalemate. This would lead to the opportunity for #4 - #6.

4- Hold numerous meetings throughout the region, inviting all members of all parties. Why?
a- “The development of safe forums for communication and interaction that allow people to get to know each other as human beings.
b- Reconciliation- All sides can express their pain and anguish.
c- Educational purposes. This enables the international community to hold training seminars on such important issues as combating desertification and harvesting. But as important as this is, “it is often secondary to the personal rapport that can be built and the understanding of different perspectives that can develop as a result of bringing people together in an educational forum.” (pg. 227).
5- Over time, pull back forces step by step. Continue negotiations. Leave the various NGOs, Humanitarian aid, and trainers to keep working.
6- Eventually pull back all UN peacekeepers leaving only AU. Keep watchful eye on government and get daily reports from NGOs.

I am definitely in favor of peace instead of war, but I think the prescription of peacekeepers, international trials and negotiations is only workable to safeguard a peace AFTER the people who are oppressed have a means to enter into negotiation with roughly equal levels of power. Once a stalemate has been reached on the groud, negotiations can begin and Mayer’s principles of negotiation can find some purchase.

Works cited:

The Independent. “The Dark Side of Peacekeeping.” 10 July 2003

Refugees International. “Conflict, Sexual Trafficking, and Peacekeeping.”
( 10/08/2004

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Note for
Implementing and Operational Partners by UNHCR and Save the Children-UK
on Sexual Violence & Exploitation: The Experience of Refugee Children in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone based on Initial Findings and Recommendations from Assessment Mission 22 October - 30 November 2001. United Nations: (New York) February 2002