September 17, 2007

Darfur: Saving Face or Humanitarian Concern

The Darfur Conflict has been raging on since early 2003, more than 200,000 people have died (a conservative estimate), and the UN has only recently passed a resolution to authorize intervention in the region. The UN and the international community have been neglectful and lethargic at best, dragging their bureaucratic feet. This can be seen as a strong argument for those who believe that the UN is merely trying to save face after its numerous peacekeeping debacles in Somalia and Rwanda; while others are confidant that the UN and the international community are taking action under the flag of humanitarian relief and the delay was due to an antiquated bureaucratic system.

Many international organizations such as the Red Cross, World Health Organization, the World Food Program, etc. are involved in the region and have risked their lives to help the refugees, which is their mandate. However, we cannot rely on these organizations to bring order to the Sudan, that political jurisdiction rests with the international community and the UN. After the ratification of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1951, the UN has a clear mandate and mission to stop genocide. In light of this, what can explain the delay in action? The United States, has often carried most of the tactical burden in these kinds of operations, however, after Somalia, the US has become more cautious and skeptical of UN peacekeeping missions. President Clinton issued Presidential Decision Directive 25, which ultimately stated that the United States would only engage in peacekeeping or peacemaking operations when it is aligned with US national security. This nervousness about UN peacekeeping operations is evident in the Rwandan genocide and the lack of intervention on the part of the US. The Clinton administration even went so far as to not recognize the genocide, instead calling it a civil war. It wasn’t until after the dust had settled that Clinton made a public apology to the Rwandans for his lack of commitment.

While many are quick to point the finger at the UN for its lack of involvement in Darfur, it is important to note that while the UN has mandates to prevent human rights violations and war crimes, among the many international laws they are responsible for keeping, resolutions must be voted on by the Security Council, before any action can be taken. Subsequently, the UN is not outfitted with a tactical force, for that it must rely on member states. Therefore, another question should be posed, why has the Security Council taken so long to pass resolution 1769?

The Darfur conflict could easily be explained by the ongoing civil war that has been ravaging the country since the early 20th century. If this were a case of civil war than the UN would be very tentative about mounting an intervention on the grounds of respecting a state’s sovereignty. However, the US and several human rights groups have labeled the conflict in Darfur as genocide, despite the UN report that denies the occurrence of genocide while recognizing the existence of war crimes. In light of this information, it is clear that the UN has not recognized the conflict as genocide therefore, the Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, has been hesitant about a call to action. In addition to this, the Security Council, lacking leadership from the United States, thanks to PDD-25, has remained inactive on the issue until recently. The conflict in Darfur has escalated to a boil and has proceeded to spill over its borders into neighboring Chad and the Central African Republic; both of which were French colonies. Chad is also rich in gold and uranium, while the Central African Republic is rich in diamonds and whose trade partners happen to be members of either the Security Council members or G8 states. Given these facts, is it possible that the Security Council is merely acting out of self interest in regards to it’s relationships with Chad and the Central African Republic?

In closing, it is possible to assume that while the UN was placed in the difficult position of differentiating between civil war and genocide, the Security Council members, especially the United States, have failed to follow through with the Genocide Convention. When a state recognizes acts of genocide it is therefore responsible to take action. The United States, however, is impeded by PDD-25. Without proper leadership, the Security Council has demonstrated its ineffectiveness. Nevertheless, resolution 1769 has been passed and the hope of stopping an atrocity is on the horizon.

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