The Peace Isn’t Being Kept In Darfur

Column Lynch has a three part series (one, two, three) looking at African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). The first installment points out the continued violence in the country:

The failure of the peacekeepers to protect civilians can be attributed to multiple factors. Internal UNAMID documents say that troop-contributing countries supplied their blue helmets with broken vehicles and low-grade weaponry, while more powerful foreign powers declined multiple U.N. appeals to give the peacekeepers helicopter gunships to reinforce the mostly African infantry battalions. U.N. headquarters in New York, according to the documents, has also routinely rebuffed UNAMID commanders’ requests that underperforming peacekeeping contingents, or those that decline to carry out direct orders, be sent home and replaced by other troops. Sudan’s government forces and militias, meanwhile, have tormented the blue helmets, hampering their effectiveness.

Part two highlights the attacks on peace-keepers:

As of Feb. 28, 2014, a total of 191 U.N. peacekeepers have died in Darfur since January 2008, when the U.N. and African Union jointly took charge of the operation in Darfur. Only a handful of U.N. operations since the 1960s — including the original Congo operation (249) and those in Lebanon (303), the former Yugoslavia (213), and Sierra Leone (192) — have exacted a higher toll.

Sixty-two of those 191 deaths were a result of violent attacks, including ambushes, carjackings, and robberies. Sudan’s special prosecutor for Darfur has opened numerous investigations, but as of today, not a single person has been held accountable for killing a UNAMID peacekeeper.

The final installment tries to explain the mission’s failures:

Michael Gaouette, a former U.N. official who led the U.N. peacekeeping department’s Darfur team in 2008, said that many of the new forces’ shortcomings were foreseeable and inevitable. The notion of a peacekeeping mission as the solution to Darfur’s ills became part of the message tirelessly promoted by foreign governments, humanitarian groups, and well-intentioned celebrities like George Clooney. The problem, he said, was that none of the conditions necessary for a successful peacekeeping mission — a ceasefire, a viable political settlement, or true consent from the Sudanese government — were in place. Darfur also held “zero strategic importance” for the few countries, including the United States, with the military capability to deploy an effective expeditionary force in a place like Darfur, Gaouette said.

“This all begins with this problem being insoluble in the short term, which was an unacceptable admission. Something had to be done right away,” he said. “It was mind-bogglingly ridiculous to propose that peacekeeping would be the key that unlocked the door to the Darfur solution. And yet peacekeeping was graspable, peacekeeping in its most simplified, misunderstood form — sending soldiers to a place in trouble.”