Writing in the New York Times on March 19th (paid subscription required), Nicholas Kristof condemns those who stand by and do nothing:
Elie Wiesel once said, referring to victims of genocide: "Let us remember: what hurts the victim is not the cruelty of the oppressor but the silence of the bystander." And it's our own silence that I find inexplicable. In Darfur, we have even less excuse than in past genocides. We have known about this for more than two years, we have photos and eyewitnesses, our president has even described it as genocide and yet we are still paralyzed.
So what should we do?
As luck would have it, the International Crisis Group provided on Friday a compelling account with clear, realistic and implementable reccommendations:
The U.S., the EU and others need, therefore, to act without delay on three fronts to:
- provide the necessary financial and technical assistance to the AU through at least September 2006, and to help AMIS implement the key recommendations for internal improvements outlined in the December 2005 Joint Assessment Mission report and affirmed by the AU on 10 March;
- do the heavy diplomatic lifting to persuade the AU and the UN Security Council to authorise the immediate deployment of a stabilisation force, ideally some 5,000-strong, as part of a phased transition to a UN mission to be completed in October 2006, to focus on monitoring the Chad-Sudan border and deterring major cross-border attacks, and on bolstering AMIS’s ability to protect civilians in the Tawila-Graida corridor; and
- persuade the Security Council to authorise immediate planning for a UN peacekeeping force of at least double the present size of AMIS, equipped to fulfil a more serious military mission, provided with an appropriately stronger mandate, and ready to take over full responsibility on 1 October 2006.
This is not ideal. Crisis Group has long contended that because AMIS has reached the outer limits of its competence, and a UN mission authorised today would not be fully ready to take over from it for some six months, a distinct and separate multinational force should be sent to Darfur to bridge that gap and help stabilise the immediate situation. We have argued, and continue to believe, that NATO would be best from a practical military point of view. Unfortunately, political opposition to this in Khartoum, within the AU and even perhaps within the Atlantic Alliance itself, means it is not achievable at this time.
As Kristof says, this is a case in which public opinion appears to be far ahead of the willingness of the political establishment to act. Darfur is not hopeless. A new peace initiative, supported by a well-equipped UN peacekeeping force and a no-fly zone, together with willingness by France to intervene to prevent any possible incursions into Chad, would change the landscape. Unless the international community acts, tens of thousands more people may die.