Stalemate on Darfur

When we wrote last week about Darfur, the UN was talking about taking over peacekeeping duties from the African Union there. Now top UN officials are claiming that the African Union is backing away from the plan. The Sudanese government has opposed UN involvement, and has helped fuel anti-UN sentiment around the continent, with other African leaders expressing concern that outside involvement will only cause more violence in the region.

Among other things, the UN’s special envoy for Sudan, Jan Pronk, said that “there has been talk” that Sudan will become the “same situation as Iraq a couple years ago”—i.e., that an insurgency will appear to fight the intervention force, or that al-Qaeda will become more active in the region. Just days ago, Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir warned that Darfur would become a graveyard for any military force entering the region without Sudan’s permission.

It’s questionable how long the African Union can remain effective in Darfur. A larger intervention force will be needed not only to stop the Sudanese militias that continue to carry out genocide, but also to enforce negotiations between Darfur and a president who demonstrates a lack of regard for his own citizens. Today the United States will hand the rotating Security Council presidency over to Argentina. That leaves a month before the seat goes to China, which has significant oil and trade interests in Sudan and is extremely unlikely to take any sort of lead in halting genocide there.