WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week's legal decision on the boundary of Abyei - an oil-rich and contested region along the disputed North-South border within Sudan – will be the first major test of recent commitments made in Washington by the two parties to Sudan's 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA.
The United States has played a critical role in negotiating the Abyei protocol, an agreement to settle the dispute over Abyei’s boundaries. The U.S. and the rest of the international community have a responsibility to ensure that the ruling is respected and that the residents of Abyei and the affected surrounding areas are protected from violence.
The ruling on Abyei, expected Wednesday from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, will occur against a backdrop of increasingly hostile relations between the ruling National Congress Party and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement over a number of unimplemented CPA provisions, including stalled preparations for the general elections in April 2010 and the referendum on southern self-determination, scheduled for 2011.
"How each party responds is a crucial litmus test of each side's will to implement the CPA," says Colin Thomas-Jensen, Enough policy adviser and co-author of the paper. "By extension, their response to the Abyei ruling is a useful barometer for the efficacy of the Obama administration's strategy on Sudan."
Enough's latest strategy paper argues that the diplomatic push from the international community to secure renewed commitment from the Sudanese parties on CPA implementation is welcome, and focusing on Abyei is an important step in making these commitments real in the lives of ordinary Sudanese. "If the Abyei dispute relapses into stalemate and violence, the already fragile CPA will be pushed to the breaking point," says Enough Project Policy Assistant Maggie Fick, the report’s co-author.
The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. Enough is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, Enough focuses on crises in Sudan, Chad, eastern Congo, northern Uganda, Somalia, and Zimbabwe. Enough’s strategy papers and briefings provide sharp field analysis and targeted policy recommendations based on a “3P” crisis response strategy: promoting durable peace, providing civilian protection, and punishing perpetrators of atrocities. Enough works with concerned citizens, advocates, and policy makers to prevent, mitigate, and resolve these crises. For more information, contact Eileen White Read, 202.741.6376; email@example.com.
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This week’s legal decision on the boundary of Abyei—an oil-rich and contested region along the disputed North-South border within Sudan—is the first major test of recent commitments made in Washington by the two parties to Sudan’s 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA. The international community—in particular the United States, which played a critical role in negotiating the Abyei Protocol—has a responsibility to ensure that the ruling is respected and that the residents of Abyei and the affected surrounding areas are protected from violence.
By Colin Thomas-Jensen and Maggie Fick | Jul 20, 2009
Enough Co-founder John Prendergast and Enough Policy Assistant Maggie Fick writing in The Huffington Post -
"If there was a serial mass murderer on the loose who had killed seven people in the United States, there would be a media firestorm, a panicked public, and subsequently, a galvanized response at the highest levels of government. In central Africa, there is a mass serial killer who has been responsible for thousands of deaths and tens of thousands of kidnappings of children over the past two decades. For over 22 years, Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has been on the loose in central Africa, leaving a trail of death, amputations, abductions, and terror. The world has paid scant attention to this deadly conflict and the mass murderer responsible for it all.
Concerned Americans, aside from having a moral urge to see an end to the LRA's cycle of death and destruction, should also have an economic interest in seeing this man removed from the battlefield. Ending the LRA's atrocities would dramatically reduce the enormous costs to U.S. taxpayers who year after year underwrite the humanitarian aid that flows to the survivors and the cost of peacekeepers patrolling parts of the Congo affected by the LRA's violence."
The myriad challenges and risks facing Sudan in the next 19 months cannot be addressed and mitigated unless the international community adopts a new approach to the crucial final stages of CPA implementation. Robust, coordinated, and high-level engagement is essential from all, not just a few, of the CPA’s “guarantors”—those states and organizations that witnessed the signing of the CPA and agreed to support its implementation. The United States and other key guarantors should play a lead role in driving this multilateral, multi-track approach, since the scale of the challenges over the coming months merit the engagement of all of the international actors who committed four years ago to supporting implementation of the CPA. The Washington conference is a positive start, but should be followed-up with efforts that penalize failure to implement key provisions of the agreement.
The narrative of an irreparably fragmented rebellion in Darfur does not reflect the reality on the ground. This paper identifies key rebel groups, and explains what they represent, what divides them, and—most importantly—what could potentially unite them if a credible, sustained, and internationally backed peace effort was put in place.
As the rainy season comes to an end in Chad, the recent détente between Chadian and Sudanese governments will not last. “Rebellion season” is on the horizon. Violence in the volatile East is again on the rise, and civilians are once again at grave risk. A high-ranking official in the Chadian government recently told us: “We know the rebels are just across the border [in Sudan]. They are coming as soon as the roads are accessible, but we are ready for them, because we monitor their moves.” Indeed, flooded roads along the Chad-Sudan border are becoming passable once more; treacherous armed bandits known as zaraguinas are menacing Darfurian refugees and internally displaced Chadians; and tensions are escalating between pastoralists and farmers competing for land. The upsurge in violence has forced aid agencies to suspend assistance to tens of thousands of civilians.
The chronic instability plaguing Chad is frequently—and inaccurately—characterized principally as “spill-over” from the Darfur conflict. There is no doubt that the Chad-Sudan proxy war has put Chad’s instability in sharper focus, but the rebellion in Chad is also the latest chapter in a decades-long internal power struggle. Chad’s government is among the world’s most corrupt, and President Idriss Déby’s authoritarian regime has quashed (often brutally) legitimate political opposition. In Chad, politics and armed conflict are synonymous. The capital N’Djamena has seen three coup attempts in as many years; it is only a matter of time before the small attacks currently occurring in eastern Chad morph into another march towards N’Djamena.
The international community has attempted to manage the Chad-Sudan proxy war through a variety of means, the most visible of which is the 2007 deployment of a 3,300 strong European Union force (known as EUFOR) and a United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (known by its French acronym MINURCAT). However, diplomatic efforts to resolve the political crisis in Chad remain weak.
In September 2008, the U.N. Security Council adopted resolution 1834, which extended MINURCAT’s mandate until March 15, 2009 and signaled its intent to authorize a U.N. military component to assume the EU’s responsibilities. The Council requested that Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon submit a report concerning the size, structure, and mandate of the U.N.’s follow-on operation by November 15, with a vote on reauthorization planned for December 15.
The Security Council discussion and vote offer an opportunity to give the mission the tools and direction it needs to better protect civilians and to begin to involve itself more in peacemaking. Indeed, absent a broader mandate and the capacity to carry it out, peacekeeping in Chad will be condemned to the same fate as the U.N./African Union force (UNAMID) in neighboring Darfur: hamstrung in its efforts to protect civilians, hapless in a situation where there is no peace to keep. Although the crisis in Chad may not have the same urgency of the catastrophes unfolding in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia, decisive action by the Security Council can help stave off a new round of violence, displacement, and a bloody showdown for N’Djamena. When President-elect Obama takes office, his administration should work with France and other stakeholders on a multilateral strategy to prevent this worst case scenario from materializing.
Protecting civiliansAfter one year in eastern Chad and northeastern Central African Republic, EUFOR and MINURCAT have not adequately protected civilians or humanitarian workers subject to frequent attacks by bandits and armed militias. According to a recent report by Oxfam, the failure to put an effective peacekeeping force in eastern Chad has left nearly half a million Darfuri refugees and internally displaced Chadians vulnerable. A major part of the solution to the plague of banditry and criminality in the region is the eventual deployment of a capable and well-trained Chadian police force to refugee and internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. This is certainly a long-term goal and a substantial task in itself, but it is painfully obvious that the status quo of one or two police officers protecting refugee camps mere kilometers from the Sudanese border is insufficient. MINURCAT’s principal function in its first year was to train Chadian police to deploy as integrated security detachments (Détachement intégré de Sécurité—DIS) units for the East. Although good police training is time- and labor-intensive, and the pool of potential trainees in Chad is no more than a few thousand, the crisis in the East requires member states to step up MINURCAT’s training capabilities to get an effective police force trained and deployed to camps as quickly as possible. Sadly, MINURCAT is yet another case where the Security Council has correctly identified the holes and inadequacies of a peacekeeping operation, but where member states have failed to commit adequate resources to plug the holes and complete the mission. MINURCAT has thus far trained less than half of a planned 850 officers and urgently needs experienced police trainers and a mandate to train up to 1,700 officers.
With an effective police to protect displaced civilians in place, the military component of the mission could focus on securing roads and improving security in more rural areas where civilians have been left to fend for themselves against encroaching rebel movements. Although EUFOR succeeded in deterring a repeat of the devastating inter-communal violence that drove over 180,000 people from their homes in 2006 and 2007, rebel groups and bandits continue to wreak havoc in the East. The trends with respect to violence against civilians are worrisome. Whereas in the past two years rebel groups have made some efforts to avoid civilian casualties, Chadian rebels are now less careful. Rape and summary execution could increase if the rebels gain fixed positions in population centers.
If and when DIS police units are effectively deployed and able to maintain a round-the-clock presence in IDP and refugee camps, MINURCAT military forces will be able to shift their focus to spreading their reach to rural parts of the countryside. MINURCAT’s rules of engagement must be flexible enough to allow U.N. troops to use force to protect civilians under imminent threat. However, in order to avert the hazards of U.N. forces becoming party to the conflict, MINURCAT must avoid being drawn into prolonged engagements with armed groups or providing intelligence to the Chadian army.
Even with a tougher mandate, MINURCAT forces will not be able to expand their reach and protect vulnerable civilians in remote areas without the right equipment and personnel. Banditry often occurs in villages off of the main roads, and attacks are perpetrated by small groups. Aid workers in eastern Chad recently told us that they had complained to EUFOR about the presence of armed bandits in a remote village where they were providing services. A EUFOR commander told the aid workers that his forces do not have the capacity or the appropriate equipment to address these cases. In addition, because EUFOR follows NATO rules of engagement, they are prevented from deploying in small companies to deal with isolated threats. Absent small, well-equipped, and nimble MINURCAT units to cover this vast terrain, bandits will continue to target civilians and insecurity will persist.
Finally, MINURCAT must coordinate closely with UNAMID. The Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General in Chad, Victor Angelo, has noted the need for enhanced coordination between the two missions, and the Security Council should establish a formal mechanism to systematize and mainstream this relationship by authorizing a joint UNAMID-MINURCAT coordination office in Abéché. Future UNAMID resolutions could authorize the establishment of a parallel coordination office in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur. The MINURCAT and UNAMID SRSGs should direct the coordination office in Abeche (and eventually El Geneina) to share information, develop joint reporting mechanisms, and identify areas for better operational coordination between the missions.
First steps toward addressing Chad’s political crisisUntil now and due to reluctance from key members of the Security Council, the U.N. has shied away from engaging with the Chadian government on political issues. France in particular is reluctant to cede its influence with President Déby to the U.N., preferring bilateral and EU channels. However, French interests in Africa are shifting, and French policy is evolving toward a reduced military footprint in Chad. The only way France can protect its longstanding interests in Chad is by working with emerging stakeholders such as the United States and China to define a more robust role for MINURCAT in addressing the internal political dynamics that fuel recurrent warfare in Chad.With support from France, the U.S., and China (whose economic interests in Chad are growing), the Security Council should begin to assert a political role for MINURCAT to buttress ongoing peacemaking efforts. Specifically, MINURCAT should be given a mandate to work with Chadian authorities to counter impunity for atrocities and to promote human rights and the rule of law in eastern Chad. The Chadian DIS police and U.N. military forces need MINURCAT’s political leadership and Security Council backing to work with the Chadian government to arrest and punish those responsible for acts of banditry and violations of human rights in IDP camps. In addition, the U.N. should also press the Chadian government to identify and discipline predatory local government officials in the East who are contributing to insecurity and threatening the ability of humanitarian organizations to operate in the region. The U.N. should enable this process by providing resources for the construction of prisons and by assisting the Chadian Ministry of Justice in improving the system for prosecuting local officials and armed bandits alike. In the refugee and IDP camps, MINURCAT should have a clear mandate to observe and the capacity to report human rights violations.
These may seem to be meager first steps to deal with Chad’s internal crisis, but overcoming Chadian objections to a stronger U.N. political role and the hesitation of France and other influential actors requires gradual and deliberate U.N. engagement.
Conclusion: A broader focus on conflict prevention in the SahelAs the first year of EUFOR and MINURCAT demonstrated, any peacekeeping operation deployed to eastern Chad and northeastern CAR will face myriad constraints based on geographic isolation, environmental factors, and limited local resources. Despite these obstacles, a well-defined and targeted mandate—on both the political and military fronts—could make a significant difference in protecting civilians and improving conditions for their return home, two of the most important goals of MINURCAT’s mandate.These immediate actions within the Security Council must be backed and followed up by a much greater diplomatic and developmental effort that address the deeper challenges of the Chadian crisis, and indeed the band of conflict (albeit of various intensity) stretching from Darfur to the Atlantic Ocean. There is an urgent need for international diplomats and development professionals, with the help of technical experts and regional specialists, to develop a long-term strategy to address the root causes of instability across the Sahel. In a general sense, a new strategy needs to focus on two areas:
Governance: Chad is not the only poorly-governed Sahelian state. Sudan, Niger, and Mauritania are also in or near the bottom third of Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. The crisis of governance in the Sahel requires firm and sustained pressure from donors and international organizations on governments in the region to enact genuine political reforms that curb state corruption and expand economic opportunity for their citizens.
Development: Progress toward political stability in this vast and increasingly desertous region will not hold without real commitment to social and economic development. While taking snapshots of the hardscrabble life led by pastoralist communities in Niger and Mali may appeal to tourists, many nomads and herders in the Sahel are simply no longer able to sustain themselves given the environmental forces mounting against them. A useful first step would be convening technical experts with experience in pastoralist agriculture and land management to work with governments and local communities to identify the most urgent needs and discuss long-term solutions.
Addressing the crisis of governance and the collapse of pastoral livelihoods is a key element of a broader conflict prevention strategy in the Sahel, but the international community seems more interested in quick-fixes than lasting solutions to conflicts in Africa. A new U.S. administration will move quickly to build the necessary civilian capacity at the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to enact a comprehensive strategy, but the U.S. cannot do this alone. Given the extraordinary policy challenges facing the new administration and evolving international interests in the Sahel, the only way forward is through the efforts of a broader coalition of actors with vested interests in the long-term security and stability of the region.