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Sudan Remains Defiant on UN Troops

Prepared by: Stephanie Hanson
Updated: September 21, 2006


The UN Security Council has authorized a large peacekeeping mission for Sudan’s violence-plagued Darfur region, while demonstrations around the world have urged its deployment (CNN). But the government of Sudan refuses, most recently during this address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, posing a dilemma for world leaders gathering at UN headquarters this week. Amid news that the Sudanese government has started to bomb villages (HRW), and a new study in Science claiming Darfur's death toll has been severely underreported (NYT), the UN Security Council is paralyzed: Resolution 1706 calls for a 20,000-strong UN peacekeeping force, yet it also guarantees that such a force will not be deployed without the Sudanese government’s consent. Writing in the Washington Post, Eric Reeves, an expert on Darfur, asks: “With the clear prospect of humanitarian collapse and massive civilian destruction, will the world continue to defer to Khartoum’s claims of national sovereignty?” He decries the international community’s abandonment of its “responsibility to protect” civilians who are victims of genocide, a commitment made at the September 2005 UN summit. With no prospect for movement on the UN peacekeeping troops, this week the African Union (AU) extended the mandate (BBC) of its Darfur peacekeeping force, which had been due to leave on September 30, until the end of the year. Sudan welcomed the decision, but international observers say the AU force is weak and poorly managed.

President Bush, who addressed the UN General Assembly on Tuesday and announced the appointment of Andrew Natsios as his special envoy for Darfur (WashPost), has also indicated his frustration with UN inaction. In a speech last week, he seemed to reject the idea that Khartoum must consent to the UN force: “What you’ll hear is… the government of Sudan must invite the United Nations in for us to act. Well, there are other alternatives.” Some suggest unilateral military action. “Multilateralism is important—but only if it gets results,” says CFR Senior Fellow Michael Gerson, a former advisor to Bush. “Sometimes, compassion requires action—and helicopter gunships” (CBS).

Others recommend the diplomatic route. John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group says both the United States and the United Nations have allowed the Sudanese government to outmaneuver them diplomatically (WashPost). In an interview with’s Bernard Gwertzman, CFR Senior Fellow Lee Feinstein says the United States has not yet launched a “systematic, diplomatic campaign that would bring along other countries and have real leverage with Khartoum.” Some analysts say a new, weakened draft of U.S. Senate legislation that would have put significant financial pressure on the Sudanese government proves Washington's inability to take strong action on Darfur (FT).

Many, including Feinstein, think a solution lies with one of the countries that abstained from the Security Council vote on Resolution 1706: China. “If China were to say, ‘You’ve got to do this,’ they would begin to think twice about resisting,” Feinstein tells the Chicago Tribune. Beijing purchased 50 percent of Sudan’s oil exports in 2005, and though foreign ministry spokesperson Qin Gang maintains, “China has no selfish interests over the Darfur issue,” its lack of action on Darfur is glaring. James Traub writes in the New York Times Magazine that China is a “status quo” power that increasingly uses its position as a veto-wielding Security Council member to protect abusive regimes with which it enjoys close ties.

This Backgrounder documents the history of the Darfur crisis, and a National Geographic video explains the factors that have fueled the ongoing conflict.

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