Wednesday, 14 November 2007

UN continues predictable fecklessness in Darfur

When I described the United Nations as the #1 institution that ruins the world it was for reasons of political partisanship, corruption, incompetence and fecklessness.

And because it simply doesn't uphold its charter.

The casual observer probably doesn't understand that the UN is effectively an arm of the EU, which uses it as a lever to counter what it sees as US hegemony in the world. Given the EU's remarkable record of not achieving anything remotely resembling positive results with its diplomatic gabfest interventions around the world such as in Iran it comes as no surprise that the UN achieves nothing either.

While its main priority is countering the US and not upholding the UN charter we should expect resolutions to the Darfur conflict, Iran's nuclear weapons program, North Korea's nuclear weapons program and a multitude of other issues around the world to be a long time coming...if ever.
For more than a week, U.N. helicopters have flown back and forth from Darfur, ferrying rebels in the bush to peace talks in Libya and envoys to the bush for consultations with the rebels, U.N. officials say.

But since convening the latest international talks to end the 4½-year conflict in the vast region of western Sudan, international mediators have been unable to achieve accord on even the most basic points of the negotiations themselves -- where they should be held and when, and who should take part.

International envoys say low-level discussions continue in the Libyan coastal town of Sirte, the home town of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, who provided a marble convention hall the size of a basketball arena for the negotiations.

But all major rebel leaders boycotted the opening round of the talks. Substantive negotiations between Sudan's government and the rebels are due in December.

Rebel leaders pledged this week to boycott that round as well unless the sponsors of the talks, the United Nations and the African Union, picked a site other than Libya and met other conditions.

When the talks began, U.N. envoy Jan Eliasson described them as "a moment of truth" toward political resolution of the conflict.

But U.N. officials this week stressed partial goals, including a cease-fire by both sides and uniting the fragmented rebel movements.

"We should not have had very high expectations from the outset. We did try to be realistic," Ahmed Fawzi, a U.N. spokesman for the mediation, said by phone from New York. U.N. officials hope "as many people will board the train as possible," he added.

The Darfur rebels took up arms in 2003, accusing the Arab-dominated Sudanese government of discrimination against the ethnically African villagers of Darfur. The rebels and international groups say the government responded in part by arming militias, known as Janjaweed, although the government denies that. The fighting has left as many as 450,000 people dead and driven more than 2.5 million from their homes.

The U.S. envoy for Sudan, Andrew S. Natsios, said in an interview late last week that the Libya talks were "the beginning of a process. It's real. It's going to happen."

The obstacles are many.

The Darfur talks have become snarled in the fraying of a peace deal in a separate conflict in Sudan, the 21-year civil war between north and south that killed an estimated 2 million people.

Southern rebel leaders last month pulled out of a power-sharing government set up by a 2005 peace deal. The southern rebels accused Sudan's government of reneging on most parts of their pact, including by allegedly remilitarizing the oil-rich border regions between north and south.

The Washington Post late Wednesday obtained a copy of a report due to be made public next week by an international panel monitoring compliance with the 2005 accord. The report notes that key parts of the deal have yet to be achieved, including reconciliation efforts and resolution of disputes over the border.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to discuss the north-south accord and Darfur in a meeting Thursday in Washington with Salva Kiir Mayardit, a southern rebel leader who became a vice president in the Sudanese government under the power-sharing accord.

Fresh approaches to the problems are hard to come by.

The United States already has imposed more sanctions on Sudan than any country in the world, said Ted Dagne, an expert on Africa with the Congressional Research Service. Sudan's economy has grown despite the sanctions, as China, India, Malaysia and other countries remain eager to do business.

Natsios in recent days proposed revising some of the terms of the north-south peace accord, officials close to the talks said. Such a move would risk opening the full accord for renegotiation. Natsios said by telephone Tuesday that the proposal was no longer on the table.

But sources said that Natsios was still pushing southern officials Wednesday to accept his plan and that it remained on the agenda with Rice. "This is the opening up" of the full accord, Kiir said Wednesday night in an interview in Washington. "I don't agree with this plan."

Watching the terms of the 2005 north-south agreement go unfulfilled has been a "major disincentive" for the Darfur rebels, Dagne said.

Experts say the international community must do more to ensure that already signed agreements are carried out, Dagne said.

For Darfur, that includes giving a U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force scheduled to begin work next year the mission of safeguarding the return of Darfur civilians now living in camps, he said.

"Without implementation of existing agreements, you can have three or four or five agreements, and you are still not going to end the violence in Darfur," Dagne said.

Leaders of one of the oldest Darfur rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement, said this week they would not attend the round of talks in December unless lesser rebel groups were barred.

Another point of contention is the talks' host, Gaddafi.

Envoys and experts in Darfur said Gaddafi has backed both sides in the conflict at different times.

In the late 1980s, Gaddafi supported an armed "Islamic Legion" that fought an unsuccessful battle against the government of Chad, which borders Libya and Sudan. Those fighting on Gaddafi's side included the first Janjaweed Arab militias, said Alex de Waal, a longtime scholar of Sudan.

At the end of the conflict in Chad, the Janjaweed militiamen retreated to their home region of Darfur, taking with them Gaddafi's weapons and his message of Arab pride, de Waal said. Today, the militiamen are accused of killing and raping people and razing villages in Darfur. "If he hadn't inflamed the conflict in Chad and brought in all those weapons, I don't think we would have a conflict in Darfur now," de Waal said.

Gaddafi's selection as host of the Darfur talks was supposed to mark his transformation from pariah to statesman, after the lifting of U.N., U.S. and European Union sanctions against his country.

Word at the talks, however, was that Gaddafi became enraged when two key rebel leaders refused to attend. Gaddafi swept into the talks and declared the Darfur conflict a tribal dispute that the international community should stay out of.

Fawzi, the U.N. mediation spokesman, said there were no plans to change the venue of the talks.

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