The Flawed Options in Darfur

The long-sought joint peacekeeping force for Darfur, which would combine the existing 7,000-man African Union force with as many as 20,000 additional military personnel and civilian police under UN command, has now been approved. But several roadblocks still stand in the way, making it very difficult for the joint AU-UN mission to bring about a peaceful settlement to the Darfur conflict.

Although UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pressed the UN Security Council to move rapidly to authorize the proposed joint force, member governments remain deadlocked over its mandate. With the encouragement of Sudan’s government, China and Russia have thus far blocked a resolution sponsored by Britain and France that would allow the proposed hybrid force “to use all necessary means” to protect humanitarian workers and other civilians. Sudan’s UN ambassador has called for a draft whose language is “more Sudan-friendly.”

Moreover, UN analysts estimate that most of the additional troops will not arrive in Darfur until early next year. The preceding phase envisages only providing the existing AU force with extra logistical support from non-African countries, such as engineers from China.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has called for merging these two phases to accelerate progress, which would require substantial funds to secure and deploy the additional UN peacekeepers. According to Jean-Marie Guehenno, the head of UN peacekeeping operations, any hybrid force must be “robust” because of the “very challenging” situation in Darfur. The draft British-French resolution would provide for an authorized ceiling of 19,555 military troops and 6,400 police officers, with an estimated cost of over $2 billion during its first year.