October 24, 2005


Help Africans help themselves in Sudan (Jeremy Barnicle, 10/25/05, CS Monitor)

As a white foreigner visiting a displacement camp here, I was greeted with the chant, "khawaja no kwa." "The foreigners say no," they sang, meaning international intervention helped curb the violence and ease the suffering in Darfur. The song was a gesture of thanks and respect.

The wealthy world fulfilled the first part of its obligation to the people here when it finally started sending emergency aid over a year ago. The second part of that obligation - helping African Union (AU) soldiers provide security for the 2 million people driven from home by the conflict - would consolidate humanitarian gains in Darfur and, as important, serve as a long-term investment in the stability of the entire continent.

In Darfur, the international community - specifically NATO and the United States - has a unique opportunity to help Africans provide security for their own conflict zones. The village raids have largely subsided, and access for aid workers has improved dramatically in Darfur over the past year, but the countryside is now racked with lawlessness and warlordism. Neither the government of Sudan nor the rebel parties seem able to control the violence. [...]

So far, the AU mission in Sudan has surpassed expectations. Displaced women used to be terrified of leaving camps to collect firewood, as armed men would stalk the outskirts of town and prey on them. Now, women can time their trips outside to coincide with AU patrols, which deter assaults. This is a development of which the AU and its backers should be proud.

The problem is that there are currently only about 6,000 AU troops in Darfur, an area the size of Texas. The AU says it plans to ramp that number up to about 12,000 by 2006. That would be too little, too late.

In order to help get Darfurians back home and back on track in safety, the AU would need to hit that 12,000 as soon as possible and be prepared to send at least a few thousand more if necessary. The US and NATO are already providing important logistical and technical support for the AU mission, but standing up this larger force would require a speedy and substantial increase in their financial commitments. The US specifically needs to apply diplomatic pressure to ensure that our allies meet the pledges they have made to the AU.

While helping the people of Darfur has been good in itself, establishing the AU as a serious force in the region is eminently worthwhile.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 24, 2005 6:02 PM
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