Stop hiding behind the African Union

| Tue Apr. 5, 2005 2:51 PM EDT

Ah, so there are still diplomats who believe that the African Union cab "handle" the genocide in Darfur, are there?

An internal African Union (AU) report has called on the 53-member bloc to double the size of its military force in Sudan's troubled western region of Darfur over the next four months, diplomatic sources said Tuesday.

Some quick background: The AU force in Darfur is currently about 2,200 soldiers in Sudan, a woefully inadequate number. Furthermore the troops have only a mandate to monitor the basically-unobserved "ceasefire" between the Darfur rebels and the Khartoum government, and no mandate to protect civilians. Even doubling the size of the force—which seems unlikely, given the AU's current recalcitrance on the matter—won't stop the genocide, which has claimed some 300,000 lives by now, and certainly won't be enough to disarm the janjawid horseback militias running through the country, butchering civilians.

The idea that the AU can "resolve" the problem is a fiction that very desperately needs to end. In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Condoleeza Rice hid shamefully behind this facade: "The [African Union] ceiling is 3,400 and the AU has said they'd like to go to five or six thousand. I think we ought to try to fully realize that." But even "five or six thousand" troops is not enough, not so long as the AU isn't tasked with protecting civilians, and not so long as Khartoum maintains its air assistance for the janjawid militias. Jan Egeland, the UN Humanitarian Affairs Secretary, estimates that at least 10,000 troops are needed to protect the 3-4 million refugees displaced by all the violence. That won't come from the African Union.

Indeed, watching the Nigerian leadership steer the AU over the last few months, it's become clear that the African bloc is much-too reluctant to stop the violence in Darfur; the AU still maintains the dangerous delusion that the National Islamic Front in Khartoum is a "responsible government". It's not, and it's long past time for the UN or, failing that, NATO to intervene.

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