A ‘no-fly zone’ is needed in Darfur


‘We are beyond the point where we should be very concerned with saving face. We should be concerned with saving lives.’ So said Lord Triesman, the British Foreign Office minister for Africa, speaking about the Darfur crisis on 17th September 2006. Tony Blair also stated that ‘[i ]f Darfur is not to be another Rwanda, we must act now, to avert catastrophe…we owe that to the people of Darfur and to the memory of those who died in Rwanda’. On the same day Baroness Amos stood outside 10 Downing Street and gave these words: ‘we do not want to see a repeat of what happened in Rwanda when the world community turned its face away’. For nearly four blood stained years, we have heard such noble words. They have been unmatched by the use of credible international force to put them into action. It is precisely this gap between words and deeds that has allowed Khartoum to do what is has always done best: Exploit the international community’s preference for ‘diplomacy’ over action, using the latter to gain the time – and even the means – to carry out the genocide that Western actors first sought to ‘solve’ through this very diplomacy.

So what can Britain now do to fill a gap which the snake oil of diplomacy has only made worse? And what can we learn from analogies between Darfur and Rwanda, beyond the hollow rhetoric that politicians and diplomats often engage in by making such a comparison? The Henry Jackson Society offers the following suggestions and observations.

The Naivasha peace process between Northern and Southern Sudan has allowed Khartoum to sidestep its responsibility in a western region of the country. It has allowed it to do in Darfur what it has always done in Sudan: Make use of racial ambiguity to carry out genocide. With the potential for a Southern black presence in Sudanese governance, what would happen to the country’s black Muslim periphery? The Arab elites in Khartoum have owed their power to the mobilisation of areas of Darfur thanks to a religious glue that masks underlying racial contempt. What had already happened to the non-Arab, largely black Muslim third of Sudan who had reinforced the Southern People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), now threatened to take place among the black Muslims of Darfur, precisely as a result of the agreement. That which posed a problem to Khartoum’s system of racial control – the Naivasha peace process- could be used to deflect attention from new atrocities in Sudan’s Western provinces. Perversely, these atrocities were carried out owing to the threat of black alliances between south and west inherent in the very agreement that is now being used to deflect attention away from them. There is a constitutional parallel here with Rwanda that those seeking a diplomatic solution fail to nice: Since Sudan became independent, people in Darfur, like their Tutsi Rwandan counterparts, have suffered from a power sharing agreement manipulated in international eyes by the dominant power group in the country.

Politicians seeking a ‘diplomatic solution’ often forget that a peace accord was signed in 1993 Rwanda after three years of civil war in Rwanda, six months before the start of the genocide. As social scientist Hazel Cameron has noted ‘Genocide must be organised to be effective’, and evidence exists that throughout the period of the three year civil war and the peace negotiations, genocide was being planned in Rwanda by members of the government of President Juvenal Habyarimana. Coincidentally, after three years of civil war the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) was signed in May 2006 between the Sudanese government in Khartoum led by President al-Bashir and the rebel Sudanese Liberation Movement, calling for a ceasefire, disarmament of the militias and a protection force for civilians. Yet rape, murder, and burning of villages continues. This is after such action took place as a result of another peace agreement – Naivasha – and its implications for Sudan’s Arabist ideology.

A spokesman for Tony Blair has recently said the United Kingdom would agree to a UN-sanctioned ‘plan B’ to impose a no-fly zone in the region. This is something The Henry Jackson Society has consistently advocated. Yet American State Department spokesman Sean McCormack has recently referred to the no-fly zone in the following manner: ‘Prime Minister Blair talked about it as an idea.’ He then refused to give further details. The no fly zone as advocated by Britain was deemed just an ‘idea’ on the table. Such equivocation will not do. Britain and its allies must move outside the UN framework on this matter. NATO could rapidly alter the strategic and diplomatic equation by creating a no-fly zone and denying Sudanese control over Darfur’s skies. It wouldn’t be the first time for NATO to stop ethnic cleansing ‘unilaterally’. Kosovo is perhaps the most successful example in this regard.

Why do we need to move outside this UN framework? Unfortunately, the UN has not been able to carry out any forceful intervention in the area, because it has been prevented from asserting its ‘Chapter VII’ capabilities. The Khartoum regime has recently employed a characteristic and deliberate ambiguity with respect to the eventual deployment of a more ‘robust’ UN force to Darfur: Majzoub el-Khalifa, head of Khartoum’s delegation to the Abuja peace talks, declared on 18th May 2006:

‘As long as [UN representatives of Kofi Annan and the Security Council] open the window for negotiation, we are going to continue and go through the negotiation. We hope that the result will be a win-win approach, for the sake of the people of Sudan. We are part and parcel of the international community. If something [does ] not go beyond our red lines, we are going to accept it shortly. The cardinal point is the dialogue and the discussion and the consultation with the government of Sudan. If it is on the line with the government of Sudan then everything will go smoothly. If it is against the will of Sudan then we are going to react accordingly.’

For ‘red lines’, read Khartoum’s specious deployment of the amorphous concept of Sudanese ‘national sovereignty’. Khartoum will continue to make all the decisions about any deploying force. Mr. Khalifa continued in this vein: ‘Sudan wants input on the size and mandate of the proposed UN mission. He stressed that Sudan wants a “re-hatting” of African Union troops already in Darfur, to retain the presence of African soldiers in the region.’ ‘[A ] UN force is the African Force’, he added. ‘They are just going to change the hats from green hats to blue hats. There will be no other forces in Darfur. They are the same forces, with the same mandate, with the same color and with the same guidance. The chief will also be from Africa.’

What those international and multi-lateral actors fail to appreciate, is that Mr. Khalifa’s reference to ‘the same mandate’ demonstrates that Khartoum will never accept a force along the lines of a Chapter VII mandate (‘peacemaking’ as opposed to ‘peacekeeping’). The UN Security Council influence of Russia and China simply confounds this problem, and demonstrates why a NATO no-fly zone must be formed in order to circumvent the UN in the region. Again, international and multi-lateral actors fail to appreciate how their vetos on an Chapter VII mandate will scupper any positive outcome: China has explicitly signalled such an opposition to the Chapter VII authority necessary to deploy an effective peace support operation in Darfur, referred to in the most recent Abuja dealings. While voting for Resolution 1679 under Chapter VII authority, Chinese Deputy Ambassador to the UN Zhang Yishan pointedly declared following the vote that ‘[Chapter VII] should not be construed as a precedent for the Security Council’s future discussion or the adoption of a new resolution against Sudan’. The Chinese will surely be able to count on support from Russia, as well as, within the UN General Assembly, the Arab League.

Britain must make clear that it is no longer enough to increase the West’s support for the peacekeepers of the African Union (AU). They have even less capability in the region than a UN with no Chapter VII mandate. A chapter-seven peace enforcement mission had, until 1994, only been used in Korea at the start of the Cold War, and more recently in the 1991 Gulf War and Somalia. In Rwanda, there was even some unwillingness after the chapter-seven disaster in Somalia six months before the Rwandan genocide began. Fast forward to 2006, and the same sentiment may be tragically apparent in the West’s approach towards Khartoum. Only now, the problems in Iraq have caused the dangerous reticence to use Chapter VII in Sudan. This is a Rwanda parallel that ‘diplomats’ trying to find a way around Chapter VII intervention, or trying to avoid a NATO command action above Darfur, again fail to notice.

As William Hague MP has recently stated, echoing The Henry Jackson Society: ‘We need a Plan B. If the UN isn’t admitted [with a Chapter VII mandate], the existing AU force should be strengthened and its mandate extended. NATO should offer logistical support and air cover to enforce the UN no-fly-zone. We need to put pressure on the rulers in Khartoum. If they do not comply with the UN mandate we should freeze their overseas assets where possible, stop their shopping trips to Paris with a travel ban, and make it clear that we will hold them personally accountable for what now happens in Darfur. Five years ago Mr. Blair said: “I tell you if Rwanda happened today…we would have a moral duty to act there also.” He must now live up to those words.’ The ‘Iraq factor’ must not be allowed to do any more for Darfur than the ‘Somalia factor’ did for Rwanda. Hundreds of thousands have been murdered. Without NATO or Chapter VII, spearheaded by Britain, mass murder in Darfur will continue


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