Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Shaping up for a showdown on Darfur

Finally, Darfur is the topic of conversation in all the most powerful rooms in the world. The recent push began in earnest last Monday in the White House when the Nato secretary-general said that the alliance would support a UN force in Darfur. Within the week the UN Security Council had unanimously passed a resolution that asks Kofi Annan to plan ways in which the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) could reinforce the peace efforts in Darfur and assist the AU mission in logistics, mobility, communications and other areas, and to present a range of options by 24 April 2006. The timing of this push is not surprising.

As host, Sudan opened a one day summit of the Arab League yesterday. Sudan is having limited success in petitioning Arab countries to unite to reject further UN involvement. Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al Bashir statedstated "The African Union [AU] forces are capable of accomplishing their mission in Darfur without any foreign intervention," instead, Bashir called on "Arab countries and the international community to support financially the AU forces". Poignantly the leaders of the two largest members, Egypt and Saudi Arabia were not present.
Bashir was not the only one petitioning the summit. Human Rights Watch and 15 other NGOs, mostly from Arab states, issued a statement urging the Arab League to take action on Darfur. They are calling for Arab leaders to endorse the turnover to UN troops, and also to condemn the human-rights violations they say are committed by rebel groups, the Sudanese government troops, and government-backed militias in Darfur.

China also had a presence at the summit. The Chinese emissary to the League underlined his country’s support for a settlement of Darfur issue in the framework of African Union’s endeavours, expressing satisfaction over close cooperation between Sudan and African Union and the neighbouring countries to reach a peaceful solution to the problem. China is keen to maintain its strong relations with the central Sudanese government with whom it has signed significant oil agreements with. China's actions both inside and out of the Security Council will undoubtedly shape the imminent develops in Darfur.
Nigeria is possibly the African nation with the most influence on the issue. It is currently hosting the stagnant Abuja peace talks on Darfur and Nigeria leads the African Union presence in Darfur. The African Union has officially sought UN help as its operation is strained and ineffective.

I have previously given an overall of the situation in Darfur here.

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