Archive for November, 2008

November 25th, 2008

The Problems of Peacekeepers

To pick up on an interesting discussion that was happening earlier on this blog, I’d like to point out an interview with Alan Doss, the head of MONUC, the peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in TIME Magazine. Here are some excerpts:

What implications does the success or failure of MONUC have for other peacekeeping operations?
Every case is different. Darfur is very different. Every time a U.N. peacekeeping force deploys, it raises lots of questions. But yes, there are issues raised by our experience that will have a long-term effect. There is a very fine line between peacekeeping and peace enforcement. Our mission was equipped for peacekeeping. And as one of my officers says, you don’t go to war in blue helmets and white tanks. When we shift from a monitoring group to one that takes on military elements, we have to change the way we operate…But I think that one should not forget that there have been a lot of achievements. Three to four years ago, the country was dividing into three parts. That was overcome. Most of the country now has peace. This is a country that is literally back from the dead. There is progress…

One important point to take from this statement is the fact that peacekeeping has to be adapted to every scenario. There are distinctions to be made between peacekeeping – the monitoring of a peace agreement; peace enforcement – the enforcing of a peace agreement through force; and peace making – the imposition of peace through the use of force. It is generally agreed that the UN is only capable of peacekeeping because of its lack of resources, confused command structure, inability to make quick decisions, and other challenges. Peacekeeping, however, in its traditional form is meant to be a symbolic protection force more than anything else – a way to overcome the security dilemma whereby neither side will disarm for fear that the other side will not disarm. They deployed to countries that have recently had a peace agreement and allow the rival factions to disarm without losing face while also holding them to their agreements. A more recent version of traditional peacekeepers, like those in Congo or Darfur, are able to use violence to protect civilians or themselves but are still not meant to be actual “peace enforcers”. The fact that peacekeeping works in certain scenarios is evident in the progress that has been made in other parts of the Congo.

But what happens when a peace agreement doesn’t hold and complex violence breaks out as in Darfur or Congo? There is still no real agreement on what is to be done when the situation is not amenable to peacekeeping. The peacekeepers surely can’t start attacking government troops who are committing atrocities because they will be attacked or kicked out of the country. Furthermore, as we’ve all heard in both Darfur and Congo, they don’t have enough troops or resources to effectively “wage war” against violent elements that may be targeting or attacking civilians.

Unfortunately, I don’t know how to make peacekeepers better. When it comes down to it, people need to start discussing the practicalities of these scenarios. How do you adapt different mandates to different environments? Is peace enforcement by the UN possible or even desirable? What is clear is that peacekeepers on their own are not able to be the “solution” to a civil war, whether in Darfur or Congo.

I’ll end this post with Mr. Doss’s quote about R2P, which I think supports this discussion nicely.

The Responsibility to Protect [or R2P, a concept of humanitarian intervention] was only adopted by the U.N. in 2005. How much is MONUC feeling its way here? Is MONUC an experiment?
R2P is a huge step forward … But the question remains: How do we actually do it? We have come up against the sharp end of R2P. We can claim that responsibility, but actually doing that in North Kivu, with a collapsing army, a resurgence of ethnic groups — well, that raises fundamental questions. When we make these statements, we have to be careful that we have the means to match our mandate.

Posted in News Update, The Scholar | 1 Comment »

November 19th, 2008

Hand in Hand for Peace

Here’s an encouraging new initiative just sent to me by an enterprising Stand’er:

Please take a moment to join this effort to ask the Canadian government to take action in Congo. If you don’t know what is going on and want to learn more go here:r or search news sites. This petition was designed by a great group called Hand in Hand for Peace and what they are asking from our government is reasonable and necessary to stop the current crisis. It only takes a minute to add your name to the list and tell your friends and family about this!

Once again, the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo is one that we at Stand are clearly interested in. Over 5 million deaths in the past 10 years. People are still dying at the rate of….wait for it….45,000 a month (mostly from disease and malnutrition)! (according to a study by the International Rescue Committee). While it’s important to remember that some parts of the country have made great strides, including a landmark election a few years ago, the situation in the eastern province of North Kivu is a disaster and threatens to pull surrounding nations into a large conflict.

I, for one, strongly encourage advocacy on this issue. Even a little bit of attention is a big step for one of the most under-reported places on the planet.

Posted in The Activist | No Comments »

November 17th, 2008


Reports are already coming in of government attacks following the ceasefire. Now is the time when international outrage should be loudest.

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

November 13th, 2008

What does it all mean?

The comments below do not reflect the official position of Stand, but are intended to start a discussion:

While governments, groups and individuals are issuing statements left, right and center about the announcement of a ceasefire by the Government of Sudan, it is sometimes difficult for us concerned to really have any idea what it means. Let’s try to look at this move with a little perspective.

First off, the number of ceasefires that the government of Sudan has violated in the past is uncomfortably large. No one is denying this. A ceasefire is very tentative measure that can be overturned on a dime, and is often no more than an excuse to regroup, rearm, and redeploy. As Alex de Waal points out, the Government and government-supported militias have undoubtedly broken more ceasefires than the rebels over the past year. So you can’t blame the rebels for being skeptical.

There are reasons to be positive about this effort, however. Partly, because there has been no real peace process for a year or so now, and partly because the ceasefire comes after a “peace conference” with no rebels but a few opposition voices, including the Southern SPLM and the Umma Party. In fact, the recommendations of the conference offer some really interesting criticisms of the government, including calling on them to release Darfuris who may be arbitrarily detained, establish a fund to help internally displaced persons and refugees return home safely (and voluntarily!), and create a new Vice-President position in the government for someone from Darfur. Those are some solid, good ideas that, if truthful, could lead to good negotiations.

Finally, from our point of view, I’m glad the UN and Canadian Government are issuing statements of encouragement, but seriously, is that all that’s going to happen? If this ceasefire is really to be turned into an opportunity, a few things need to happen on our end.

1. UN mediators (or a Canadian Envoy….hint hint…) need to sit down with the rebels and discover what sort of monitoring methods would convince them of the government’s commitment to this initiative, and then set up those mechanisms. It is not implausible to me that the Canadian government would set up some sort of benchmarks that the government of Sudan would need to meet step-by-step to prove their commitment. The US did precisely that during the negotiations for the North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement, responding to the attainment of a benchmark with rewards and the failure with punishment. Such benchmarks could include allowing UN troops access to places they have otherwise had trouble monitoring, disarming the Janjaweed militias, setting up real trials for crimes and providing compensation to victims, or allowing unfettered humanitarian access to the entire region. Halting bombing campaigns is assumed also….

2. UNAMID (the joint African Union-UN peacekeeping force) needs to focus on verifying the implementation of the ceasefire and needs to yell really loudly if it is broken.

3. As already mentioned, the rebels need to be brought on board. Discussions about a Qatar-backed peace conference are already circulating. The UN and/or Canada et al. need to meet with Qataris, government and rebels and reach a compromise about how such a conference would take place and where. While I’m glad to see that the peace process is slowly getting started, it won’t be a peace process for long if the rebels don’t jump on board at some point.

As de Waal mentions, we should all encourage and support a “homegrown” Sudanese solution to Sudanese problems; that said, the international community now needs to help make sure those solutions are actually carried out. Luckily for us, this is something we CAN do (unlike so many of the prescriptions that have been passed around over the past five years), through monitoring and verification, trust-building exercises, mediation, diplomacy and public statements, neutral locations for peace conferences, providing peacekeepers as a way to break the security dilemma, and more such “soft-power” actions of referee-ing. So let’s get on it.

A whole other question arises should it prove that the ceasefire is merely dead air…

As always, I welcome thoughts and comments.

Posted in The Politician, The Scholar | 3 Comments »

November 13th, 2008

Canada’s Reaction to the Ceasefire

Ceasefire called by government accused of genocide in Darfur: what does this mean for Canada?

Sudanese President Omar-al-Bashir recently announced a unilateral government ceasefire in Darfur. This release provides contacts to help make sense of what this means for Canada.

On Tuesday, November 12th Sudanese President Omar-al-Bashir announced a unilateral ceasefire in Darfur. He stated that his government would start disarming militias and restrict the use of weapons among armed groups. Darfuri rebel groups did not take part in talks, and have not agreed to reciprocate.

This move follows the International Criminal Court’s application to indict Bashir for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur.

The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, issued the following statement:

“Canada is encouraged by the Government of Sudan’s announcement of its unilateral ceasefire in the Darfur region. The Sudanese government must now fully implement this ceasefire and resist all provocation. Canada urges rebel and other armed groups to cease hostilities as well, in the interest of the security of Darfuri civilians.

“A comprehensive ceasefire is the first step toward creating favourable conditions for the resumption of peace talks and ensuring the protection of civilians and humanitarian workers in the region. Therefore, Canada calls on all parties to the conflict, which has devastated the lives of so many Sudanese people, to resume the negotiation process led by the United Nations and the African Union.”

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

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