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Homepage > Publication Type > Open Letters > Darfur Needs Bolder International Intervention

Darfur Needs Bolder International Intervention

Brussels  |   25 May 2005

With the high-level conference on the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) set to begin in Addis Ababa on 26 May 2005, the International Crisis Group is urging much stronger international intervention to stop the ongoing killing in Darfur.

In a letter addressed to world leaders (full text below), including those meeting at the conference, Crisis Group President Gareth Evans highlights two areas in particular that immediately demand a bold new approach: the mandate of the international troop presence, and its size and capacity.

The current mandate of AMIS, as authorised by the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council, focuses on monitoring and verification, leaving to the Sudanese government the basic responsibility to protect civilians and humanitarian workers.

"Khartoum has utterly failed in its responsibility to protect its own citizens", says Evans. "And AMIS's own protection role is so highly qualified as to be almost meaningless".

The force's mandate must be strengthened both to enable and to encourage it to undertake all necessary measures, including proactive action, to protect civilians in Darfur. Khartoum's reluctance to accept an expanded mandate must be met with a decision to commence planning for the deployment, should this become necessary, of a fully-mandated protection force in a non-permissive environment.

On the force's size and capacity, it is clear the current security and humanitarian situation in Darfur demands a much greater presence than is currently in train. Crisis Group's own estimate is that a minimum presence of 12,000-15,000 personnel is needed within the next 60 days.

"It has become apparent that the AU, with the best will in the world, will be unable, without substantial further international support, to deploy an effective force of anything like this size in anything like this time-frame", says Evans.

Ideally, the gap would be filled by more African personnel with strong international support, but if this proves unworkable in the short time available, a multinational bridging force will be the only solution to tackle Darfur's most urgent protection needs. NATO would appear to be the best equipped organisation to provide, and lead, the additional troops required in the necessary numbers and within the necessary time-frame.

To find out more about the crisis, visit our Darfur advocacy page. This page has details of Crisis Group's reports and opinion pieces on the conflict, details of our advocacy efforts to date, information on what you can do to support Crisis Group's efforts, and links to other resources on the conflict.

24 May 2005

[UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan; AU Commission Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konaré; AU Chairperson President Olusegun Obasanjo; NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer; Javier Solana Madariaga, Secretary General of the EU Council and High Representative for the CFSP; UK Prime Minister Tony Blair; U.S. President George W. Bush; and French President Jacques Chirac]

I write in the context of the forthcoming high-level conference on the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) in Addis Ababa on 26 May 2005 to urge your support for much stronger   intervention by the international community to stop the ongoing killing in Darfur.

Despite repeated pledges to stop the violence, the Sudanese government has utterly failed to do so.  Political negotiations have stalled and, despite the presence of AU troops on the ground and the UN Security Council's important action in relation to accountability and sanctions, the civilian population of Darfur continues to grievously suffer.

This is a highly complex situation, and there are multiple elements in the necessary international action plan -- as spelled out by Crisis Group in its Policy Briefing, A New Sudan Action Plan, of 26 April 2005.  But two issues in particular require, urgently, a bold new approach:  the mandate of the international troop presence, and its size and capacity. 

Protection Force Mandate

The current mandate of AMIS, as authorised by the AU Peace and Security Council, focuses on monitoring and verification, leaving to the Sudanese government the basic responsibility -- which it has utterly failed to discharge -- for protection of civilians and humanitarian workers. AMIS's own protection role, so highly qualified as to be almost meaningless, is only to 'protect civilians whom it encounters under imminent threat and in the immediate vicinity, within resources and capability'. The force's mandate must be strengthened to both enable and encourage it to undertake all necessary measures, including proactive action, to protect civilians in Darfur. Without a stronger mandate, the ability of AMIS -- or any other international force -- to provide protection will remain extremely limited, regardless of the force size.

The Sudanese government may well be reluctant to accept any change of mandate. But its periodic arguments that it is not in full control of the Janjaweed militias, and above all the continuation of serious violence which it has repeatedly pledged to stop, must now become the basis for international insistence that this happen. That insistence should be backed by a decision to commence planning for the deployment, should this become necessary, of a fully-mandated protection force in a non-permissive environment.

Protection Force Size

The current security and humanitarian situation in Darfur requires a much greater presence than the 2,341 Phase I military personnel now on the ground, or the 7,731 (including 1,560 civilian police) authorised by the AU and targeted for arrival in September.  Crisis Group's own estimate -- developed after consultation with military experts in the AU, UN and elsewhere -- is that a minimum presence of 12,000-15,000 personnel is needed now to undertake the tasks of protecting villages against further attack or destruction; protecting IDPs against forced repatriation and intimidation; protecting women from systematic rape outside the IDP camps; providing security for humanitarian operations; and neutralising the Janjaweed militias. The minimum need, as we see it, is for a battalion group (infantry plus support elements) to be deployed in each of the eight sectors, with a battalion as force reserve, 700-1,000 military observers, 1,500-2,000 civilian police, and 1,000 headquarters and other staff.

It has become apparent that the AU, with the best will in the world, will be unable without substantial further international support, to deploy an effective force of anything like this size in anything like the necessary time-frame -- around 60 days. It has only just achieved the Phase I military component (with a shortfall still on the civilian police side) and at the present rate of progress is likely to find difficulty in meeting its September target for the remaining authorised deployment. There appear to be only two available options for achieving the force size urgently needed. 

Option I: More African Personnel, with Strong International Support.   While the preferred position here would clearly be for a single African lead country to provide most of the required additional personnel, African states currently have 18,600 assigned to UN peace operations, with more expected to contribute to UNMIS, IGASOM and other planned operations elsewhere, and a lead deployment of several thousand African troops is not likely to be immediately available from any one country on the continent, and almost certainly not from sub-Saharan Africa. North Africa offers possibilities worth exploring, but Morocco -- one such country with strong military capability -- is not a member of the AU, should this be thought relevant, and the experience with Egyptian forces already in Darfur indicates that there are deep sensitivities on the IDP side associated with the substantial presence of any Arab force, in particular from Egypt, which would need to be taken into consideration.

An aggregation of smaller numbers of troop contributors sufficient to meet the required total might be possible -- the AU itself  has foreshadowed a possible increase in AMIS to 12,300 to assist those displaced to return home for the 2006 planting season.  But there will be obvious difficulties in deploying, on an urgent basis, sufficient numbers of trained troops with the necessary interoperability.

All this suggests that the only way the necessary numbers could be found and effectively deployed from within Africa would be for the AU to accept and request a far higher degree of international involvement than has so far been contemplated, in particular in the following areas:

  • Force generation and deployment: donors must be prepared to underwrite the costs of the expanded force and the delivery of troops to Darfur, and be operationally engaged in their deployment: this will require strategic lift from countries of origin and ground transportation within theatre. 
  • Force preparation: because of the scope and complexity of the challenges, troops deploying to Darfur will require the highest possible degree of preparation, standardisation and interoperability. The AU will need support in rapidly developing a standard force preparation package for all contingents, both military and civilian police (CIVPOL). This can be achieved through the use of existing peacekeeping training facilities on the continent, 'fly away' training teams from AU, EU and NATO member states and in-theatre instruction.
  • Capacity: in order to meet the demands posed by rapid expansion of AMIS, the AU's partners must be prepared to provide staff and advisers at all levels of the mission. Primary focus should be on the Force HQ in El Fasher, which requires a 24 hour Joint Operations Centre with requisite intelligence, communications and command tools. A Joint Logistics Coordination Centre is also necessary to sustain the force and enhance its operational flexibility.
  • Mobility: an expanded and more assertive AMIS presence will require greatly enhanced mobility in order to fulfil its mission. The existing fleet of helicopters need to be upgraded or replaced to accommodate armament, forward-looking infra-red (FLIR), tactical communications equipment and night operations capability. Current restrictions on night flying must be lifted and difficulties with fuel distribution resolved. At the same time, there is a need for additional fixed wing transport aircraft for in-theatre movement of troops, and more suitable ground transportation.
  • No-Fly Zone: an effective enforcement mechanism must be established in support of UNSC Resolution 1591, which prohibits offensive military flights within Darfur. A decisive first step would be for the UNSC and AU to insist that the GOS remove all fixed and rotary wing military aircraft from Darfur and refrain from subsequently re-entering the airspace. In addition, concrete measures to enforce compliance with the no-fly zone, including direct monitoring of airports and control of air space should be considered.

Under this option, it would be possible to preserve the principle (which would clearly be helpful in achieving consensus within the AU) that only African personnel would interface with Sudanese -- including  IDPs, militia, government troops and rebels in on-the-ground operational situations. Non-African personnel, although necessarily present in-theatre in significant numbers (as communications and logistics specialists, aircrew, staff officers and the like)   would be confined  -- with the possible exception of helicopter pilots flying tactical missions -- to various supporting roles.

Option II: A Multinational Bridging Force.   If the first option proves unachievable within the time-frame envisaged, as is quite likely, then a further option must be seriously contemplated if the international community is to meet its responsibility to protect the people of Darfur, however difficult or unpalatable this may appear at first sight to various parties.

NATO would appear to be the best equipped organisation to provide -- and lead -- the additional troops required in the necessary numbers and with the necessary short lead-time. It has ample planning, command and control and logistic support and sufficiently interoperable troop resources at its disposal; with Turkey as a member, it could potentially draw on a large pool of well-trained Muslim but non-Arab forces, who may be thought particularly appropriate in a Darfur context; and has already taken one step in this direction by agreeing to meet an AU request to provide some training support. 

There are no obvious alternative troop suppliers. Although individual non-African countries like the UK, France and Germany may have the necessary capacity, it is unlikely that any of them would, with their present commitments elsewhere, wish to take on an operation of this size individually, either under their own flag or as an EU-flagged 'lead nation' (as with the French-led Operation Artemis in the DRC in 2003).  The EU has a developing multinational force capability, but its recently announced Battle Groups are not likely to be fully operational until 2007, and it is difficult to envisage the 'Berlin Plus' arrangements, involving a European-badged operation with NATO support,  producing an agreed solution in the time available

Such a NATO operation should be viewed as essentially a 'bridging' force, designed to tackle Darfur's most urgent protection needs. The imperative need is to get additional capable forces on the ground now. Having NATO supplement AMIS would provide the best means in the short term to fulfil the operational requirements of civilian protection in Darfur, filling the gap until such time as the AU is fully staffed and mission capable.

Khartoum is likely to be even more strongly opposed to any proposal for a multinational force not confined to Africans than it will be to the strengthening of the force mandate. But the international community cannot let Khartoum dictate its fulfilment of its responsibility to protect those at risk.  It has already accepted non-African forces in southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains, after the exertion of international pressure. Ideally, the government of Khartoum would acquiesce in the face of a unified call -- in which the AU will need to join -- for its cooperation.  If it does not, and the killing continues, the international community will have no alternative but to consider the deployment of such a protection force without its consent, even though a much larger force than that here proposed would clearly be necessary in a non-permissive environment.

The bold options here proposed are no more than the minimum necessary to stabilise a very difficult and dangerous current situation.  Further decisions will be required for action to ensure the return of the over 2 million refugees and internally displaced, or if the situation deteriorates further. 

Protecting civilians in Darfur represents a significant challenge for the international community and the AU in particular. While Khartoum seeks to persuade the international community that the situation is gradually stabilising, its actions ensure that the problems in Darfur will persist, discrediting the notion that it is willing to assume the responsibility for protecting its own people.

No single actor will be able to resolve the crisis in Darfur alone. Only a partnership of diverse military, civilian and humanitarian  actors -- including the  AU, EU, NATO, UN, and NGOs -- will succeed in providing an adequate degree of protection for the civilian population and laying the foundation for a secure environment and a stable peace.

I urge the participants at the 26 May conference to take up this challenge and do their part to protect those at risk in Darfur.



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