Africa Matters is a blog that follows the news and offers analysis of African affairs. Our aim is to delve deeper into the issues of African politics and development. We don’t presume to be experts, and we don’t presume to have all the answers—we are just trying to ask the right questions.

Thursday, August 9

Sudan roundup

Back after a few weeks hiatus...

The big news is that the UN Security Council passed a resolution authorizing a peacekeeping force of up to 26,000 for Darfur. The resolution was passed under Chapter VII, which allows the use of force, and is scheduled to begin by October - though don't expect much before the end of the year. So far five African countries have pledged troops - Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Nigeria. Senegal also said it would consider sending more troops, in addition to those already serving under the current AU misison, provided the soldiers have a clear right to defend themselves. The bigger problem, according to Reuters, will be assembling the Western specialists and equipment.

While most commentators have welcomed the resolution, it has also being greeted with a healthy dose of skepticism, bearing in mind that a similar resolution was passed a year ago, and that some of the contents were watered down to secure international support, particularly from China. Eric Reeves, writing in The New Republic, offers a particularly (and typically) fierce condemnation of the resolution, complaining that it does not authorize the force to seize weapons, does not condemn Khartoum for its obstruction of humanitarian operations, and includes no provision for sanctioning Khartoum for non-compliance. Reeves has another piece in the Guardian. Alex De Waal urges the UN to take a "community peacekeeping" - rather than a "garrison peacekeeping" - approach. Stephen Heidt analyzes the resolution for Foreign Policy in Focus. Mary Riddell comments in The Observer. The Northern opposition Umma National Party praised the resolution.

Meanwhile:

  • Sending in peacekeepers with no peace to keep is always dangerous, so the international community is also stepping up efforts to reach a political agreement. To that end, a conference of the different Darfur rebel factions was held in Arusha, Tanzania. Most important actors were represented, with a couple of important exceptions. Suleiman Jamous, the highly-respected humanitarian coordinator for the Sudan Liberation Movement is under house arrest by the national government at a UN hospital in Kordofan. And Abdul Wahid al-Nur, the original leader of the Sudan Liberation Movement - who is currently residing in Paris - has refused to attend negotiations while the government is still fighting. Al-Nur has control of few troops, but commands significant loyalty, particularly among the displaced population. The Sudan Tribune has an interview with al-Nur. The rebels in attendance supposedly agreed on a common negotiating platform with regard to "power-sharing, wealth-sharing, security arrangements, land, and humanitarian issues."However, the details of this agreement haven't been provided. And the rebels also still face the challenge of deciding who will represent them. And, as Alex De Waal points out, agreeing on a common ideal solution is much easier than maintaining coordinating during the tough negotiations which are almost certain to ensue.
  • The International Crisis Group has released a new report, A Strategy for Comprehensive Peace in Sudan, which argues that a lasting peace isn't likely to take hold in Sudan unless the country's multiple conflicts are addressed in tandem. The report warns that the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the North-South conflict is in serious danger of collapsing as the North sabotages the deal, the SPLM focuses on the autonomous Southern region at the expense of national policy, and the international community diverts its gaze to Darfur. The authors also point out that conflict risks erupting in the country's north, east, and center. Reuters has more on the peace deal in the East, and the controversy over a dam project in the North. One thorn of contention in the North-South conflict is the continued presence of Northern troops in the South, in violation of a July 9 CPA deadline for them to leave. The South recently issued a statement saying they would be considered "occupation forces."
  • The South announced that it would begin demobilization of 25,000 of its troops, though it warned that the UN reintegration package is not fully in place. And a long-awaited commission has been formed to increase Southern representation in the civil service. However, the census, a necessary step in organizing the national elections scheduled for 2009 may be delayed another month, to February.
  • The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof offers his 11-point plan for Darfur, including a defense of a no-fly zone. The Social Science Research Council looks at the stances of the Democratic presidential candidates on Darfur. Alex De Waal thinks Bill Richardson gets it most right. Khaled Diab, in The Guardian, looks at supposed environmental causes of the conflict.
  • Jumping in on the latest wave of Darfur activity, the ICC's Luis Moreno-Ocampo wants everyone to remember that any peace deal must respect ICC warrants for the arrest of Sudanese minister Ahmad Harun.
  • UN Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow offered to take the place of rebel Suleiman Jamous so he could attend the peace talks in Arusha. A Sudanese official said her letter was "silly" and doesn't merit a response. They might have a point on this one...
  • Heavy flooding continues to plague the country.