Friday, August 27, 2010

Who Speaks for the UN on Darfur?” The Role of Nigeria’s Ibrahim Gambari

Darfur has never been so vulnerable to a collapse of humanitarian operations, never so insecure, and never so unprotected by the peacekeeping force that the UN has deployed. As the recent events at Kalma camp in South Darfur demonstrate, now is perhaps the last moment for decisive leadership on the part of the peacekeeping force in Darfur, known as UNAMID. Kalma camp—one of the largest and most politicized of Darfur’s Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps—has been the focus of a three-week standoff that has seen a complete shutdown of humanitarian access and a brutal dispersal of much of this population of some 100,000 civilians to other camps and nearby villages. Further, an acute challenge to UN authority has been posed by officials of the National Congress Party regime in Khartoum, which has demanded that UNAMID surrender six Kalma IDPs who sought sanctuary at a UNAMID police center a month ago following an outbreak of violence.

As I noted in my most recent post on this politically fraught situation, there is a standoff: so far the UN has refused to yield to Khartoum’s demand, insisting that the regime guarantee that it will “[bring the six IDPs] to trial in accordance with international standards of justice.” Since such “standards of justice” prevail nowhere in northern Sudan—and least of all in Darfur—the UN has effectively boxed itself in. For Khartoum is adamant about the turnover of these IDPs, and its actions over the past two weeks have been ever more ominous. More than half the camp, some 50,000 people, has now fled in fear, many encountering violence. For its part, the regime has announced plans to dismantle the camp and remove the remaining IDPs to new (and of course unconstructed) camps.

So who is the voice of the UN in this crisis? Who is in charge of UNAMID? Who will make the final decision about whether or not to hand over the six IDPs purported to be politically responsible for violence in Kalma? Who will presume to weigh the consequences of such a turnover to Khartoum’s security officials, whose treatment of these people, we may be sure, will be brutal and not at all concerned with “fairness and due process of law”? Negotiations over a stand-down continue, but without a demonstration of UN leadership that has been nowhere in evidence in Darfur over the past six years, capitulation seems inevitable. Certainly all actors are aware that in the event of UN acquiescence, whichever local officials are nominally in charge of receiving the six IDPs, these civilians will certainly be turned over immediately to Military Intelligence, the most powerful regime presence in Darfur. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

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