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Cohen: ‘Hard Bargaining’ Necessary with Sudan on Darfur Peacekeeping Force

Interviewee: Roberta Cohen
Interviewer: Stephanie Hanson
February 6, 2008

In July 2007, the UN Security Council authorized a 26,000-strong joint UN/African Union (AU) peacekeeping force for Sudan’s Darfur region. Many observers hoped the force would help quell the violence in Darfur, but delays and difficulties have plagued its deployment. Only nine thousand peacekeeping troops have been deployed thus far, the bulk of which were already on the ground in Darfur as part of the AU peacekeeping force that has been present since 2004.

Roberta Cohen, an expert on humanitarian issues at the Brookings Institution, says the Sudanese government has obstructed the deployment of the joint force in several ways. It has not assigned sufficient land for all the troop barracks needed; has delayed the signature of a status of forces agreement with the United Nations; and has refused non-African units that are necessary to enhance the force’s capabilities. “It reminds me of the 1990s and the UN’s failure in the former Yugoslavia,” says Cohen, “where you had troops that were not fully equipped put in the middle of a war with an ambiguous mandate and at the mercy of a defiant government.”

Cohen notes that because Darfur is such a difficult environment to operate in, “even the ultimate goal here is not sufficient.” She suggests that the United Nations needs to do more “hard bargaining” with the Sudanese government to get non-African specialists into the peacekeeping force, and this diplomatic effort should include sanctions. If the force is not strengthened, Cohen predicts that African countries will begin to renege on their troop commitments. “An ineffective force,” she says, “is just what the government of Sudan wants.”


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