Sudan Rebuffs U.N. Peacekeepers in Darfur

The Sudanese government is refusing to allow U.N. peacekeepers to replace African Union troops in that war-torn country. John Prendergast, senior advisor to the International Crisis Group, talks with Alex Chadwick about resistance to intervention in the Darfur region.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. Coming up: the new Beirut through the lens of an American photographer who lives there. To see her pictures, go to NPR.org. I'm Alex Chadwick.

NOAH ADAMS, host:

I'm Noah Adams. First, though, news about another site of suffering, the Darfur region of Sudan, with its refugees now estimated to be in the millions. At a meeting in Brussels ending yesterday, donor nations - including the U.S. - pledged $200 million to maintain African Union peacekeeping troops in Sudan for a few more months. But they want the U.N. to oversee peacekeeping eventually, and that is a move that Sudan continues to resist.

CHADWICK: To help us understand the situation better, I spoke earlier with John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group. That's an independent group that monitors world conflict. John Prendergast, why is the government of Sudan so against the proposed U.N. peacekeeping force rather than the African Union force?

Mr. JOHN PRENDERGAST (Senior advisor, International Crisis Group): Well, they like the status quo. The African Union is a fairly ineffectual force. It hasn't be really supported by the donors as they promised they would, and it has only 7,000 troops in an area the size of Texas. It simply can't monitor and oversee all of the abuses the government of Sudan is guilty of.

So this is great for the government, that they can continue to undertake the ethnic cleansing campaign. They can continue to undermine intercommunal relations in Darfur, which serves their military interests. Bring in a U.N. force - double the size, stronger mandate, all the rest of it - would compromise the government's ability to continue to carry out its war strategy. So, I think they simply don't want the U.N. there for that reason.

But they also don't want it there because they're afraid that if the U.N. troops are there in northern Sudan, that if they International Criminal Court does indict any senior leaders in the government of Sudan for war crimes and crimes against humanity, that that U.N. force will then turn on the government and try to capture the indictees. That's the worst case scenario.

CHADWICK: Actually arrest these guys and make them go to court. This dispute is between black African rebels in Sudan and the Arab-African Sudanese government. There was a ceasefire announced in May, supposedly a deal struck with the government promising to control the so-called Janjaweed militias that have so terrorized so many villages there and created all these refugees. What happened to that deal?

Mr. PRENDERGAST: I just got back from traveling around the refugee camps in Chad where a lot of the Darfurians who have been victimized by the violence have crossed the border for sanctuary. And I also went into rebel held areas of Darfur. I didn't meet one refugee or displaced person from Darfur who supported this agreement for that very reason.

What the agreement does is it leaves, primarily, the responsibility for disarming the Janjaweed to the government of Sudan. There's no real international verification of that disarmament process. So no one's going to go home. They're not going to go home if Janjaweed are still armed to the teeth and dangerous in Darfur. So, that's really the fatal flaw of this peace deal.

And, in the interim, since two out of the three rebel factions didn't sign the deal - because of this and a few other provisions in the agreement - the rebels have turned on each other. And so we've got additional fighting now, not only between the government of Sudan and the rebels that haven't signed, but also now between the rebel group that did sign and the two that didn't. It's just almost bordering on chaos.

CHADWICK: Things have actually gotten worse?

Mr. PRENDERGAST: Oh, they've gotten much worse since the signing of the agreement.

CHADWICK: Well, what do you see as a possibility here? It doesn't look as though the government of Sudan is going to say yes to a U.N. force anytime soon. What do you hope for?

Mr. PRENDERGAST: I think there are two things that have to happen. First, the United States has to decide it's going to actually start to create costs for the government of Sudan for its non-compliance with the United Nations deployment. We have now three years of this developing genocide in Darfur, and there's never been one punitive measure imposed on the government for orchestrating it.

We need to support the imposition of targeted sanctions against senior regime officials who are responsible for blocking the United Nations deployment. And we need to support the International Criminal Court in its moving forward in its developing the indictments against these leaders.

The second thing that needs to happen is there needs to be an enhancement of this agreement on the question of how you disarm the Janjaweed. In every other peace agreement around the world there's international involvement in disarmament and reintegration processes. There isn't in this one. There's got to be a U.N. role, and if there isn't, these people are never going to go home and no one's going to agree to this thing.

CHADWICK: And the prospects of that, John?

Mr. PRENDERGAST: Yeah, they're very dim. I think the United States has decided to constructively engage Khartoum rather than pressure it. We've got a counterterrorism relationship with the government. I don't think we want to jeopardize it. It's a higher priority than combating genocide.

CHADWICK: John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group speaking with us from Boston. John, thank you.

Mr. PRENDERGAST: Thank you, Alex.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.