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by Mithre J. Sandrasagra

Darfur Aid Workers Flee Violence, Leaving 350,000 Without Help (2006)

(IPS) UNITED NATIONS -- A resolution to create the world's largest peacekeeping operation was unanimously adopted by the UN Security Council Tuesday.

The decision to create the African Union-UN hybrid operation in Darfur (UNAMID) follows months of tough negotiations over the force's command structure and mandate, which required the consent of the Sudanese government and the approval of China, a veto-wielding member of the Council and close ally of Khartoum.

The resolution calls for a force of up to 19,555 soldiers, including 360 military observers and liaison officers, plus 3,772 police, alongside 19 police units of 140 people each.

This resolution sends a "clear and powerful" signal that the UN is committed to protect the lives of the people of the region, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the members of the Council following the balloting.

But some humanitarian groups said more urgent action was needed.

"While we are pleased that the negotiations on the hybrid have reached a conclusion, the force will not be able to make a difference on the ground for many months," Jamie Balfour-Paul, Oxfam's humanitarian policy advisor, said Tuesday. Oxfam is a British-based non-governmental organization working to alleviate poverty and hunger.

"People in Darfur are being attacked every day and are stuck in camps which they are too frightened to leave," Balfour-Paul added, stressing that, "Aid workers trying to help them have also been attacked.

UNAMID aims to establish an "initial operational capability" for its headquarters by October, and to achieve sufficient strength to carry out its mandate by the end of 2007.

"The plan for Darfur from now on is to achieve a ceasefire, including an end to aerial bombings of civilians; drive forward peace talks [in Tanzania] and, as peace is established, offer to begin to invest in recovery and reconstruction," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said before invited guests here early Tuesday morning. Brown did not attend the Security Council consultations prior to balloting.

In order to win agreement, the adopted resolution put forth by Britain, France and Slovakia dropped earlier threats of new sanctions if the warring parties did not cooperate, and deleted the right to the "seizure and disposal" of illegal arms. UNAMID will monitor arms instead.

One of the most contentious issues during negotiations was how to determine the chain of command for the hybrid force. A number of potential troop contributors were nervous at the unusual format which was designed to win over Sudan's opposition to a pure UN force.

The resolution does, however, stress that there will be a "single chain of command," and that "command and control structures and backstopping" will be provided by the UN Day-to-day decisions, however, will be taken by an African general, and the aim is for most of the troops to be African.

Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda will be major troop contributors, but elements will come from around the world, including a team of Chinese engineers who will build the UN base.

Although Britain tabled the resolution, it is expected to contribute only a handful of troops. Britain will, however, provide as much as 100 million pounds in logistical and economic support.

The resolution was adopted despite retention of references to Chapter 7, under which the UN can authorise the use of force for self-defense to ensure the free movement of humanitarian workers and to protect civilians.

Until recently, China, the largest purchaser of Sudanese oil, had indicated that it would veto any resolutions on Darfur that included Chapter 7 provisions.

However, "In recent months pressure has mounted on the Chinese government over its relationship with Khartoum, as advocacy efforts have linked ever more forcefully Beijing's complicity in the Darfur genocide and China's hosting of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games," wrote Eric Reeves, author of "A Long Day's Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide," on his weblog last week.

Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives is moving to pass legislation stepping up economic pressure on Khartoum.

The Darfur Accountability and Divestment Act of 2007 would require the U.S. Department of the Treasury to publish and maintain a list of companies or entities whose business dealings directly benefit the Sudanese government. It also enables U.S. state and local governments to divest from those companies, and provides protection to fund managers from lawsuits brought by investors who disagree with any decision to divest.

"Evidence of mass slaughter, aerial bombardments, and forced displacements targeted against the African tribes in Darfur require us to take this action," said Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"Chinese oil interests in Darfur are at the forfront of media campaigns," James Paul, executive director of the Global Policy Forum in New York, told IPS. "What isn't talked about are the oil interests of the U.S. and UK, and their motivations for pushing for humanitarian intervention in Sudan."

U.S. oil companies, banned from doing business with Sudan since 1997, are eager for a piece of the action in Sudan. Chevron has already conducted extensive surveys in Southern Sudan and Darfur.

"Public 'pressure' for intervention in Darfur is welcomed by Washington and used as a lever against the governments of Sudan and China," according to Paul, who stressed that, "The public is being persuaded that the only way to stop the bloodletting is armed intervention and not a political settlement that would in fact be the best route towards peace."

Brown warned Tuesday that, "if any party blocks progress and the killings continue, I and others will redouble our efforts to impose further sanctions."

If the government of Sudan is not a "good-faith partner in this initiative, the operation will fail," Ban stressed, adding, "We have the same expectation of the rebel movements."

Since it began in February 2003, when members of the region's ethnic African tribes took up arms against what they saw as decades of neglect and discrimination by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum, the Darfurian people have been subject to government-sponsored displacement, rape and murder.

The violence sponsored by the Sudanese government and perpetrated by its Janjaweed militias has claimed at least 400,000 lives, displaced 2.5 million people and left more than 3.5 million men, women and children struggling to survive amid violence and starvation, according to the UN and African Union.

Pointing to the importance of the peace talks commencing this weekend in Arusha, Tanzania, British officials admitted that the new force alone "can't solve the problem."

"It is only through a political process that we can achieve a sustainable solution to the conflict," Ban emphasized.

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Albion Monitor   July 31, 2007   (

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