Darfur in peril
When President Bush hosted Sudanese Vice President Salva Kiir on Nov. 15, he made a small but promising step toward alleviating the humanitarian crisis in Sudan. Unfortunately, it appears the White House meeting could be just another perfunctory courtesy that will yield few concrete results in improving the condition of some 2.5 million refugees and preventing violence against African Union peacekeepers in the region. We hope this is not the case.
Mr. Kiir condemned the Sudanese government for dealing in bad faith. But while his brave defiance against the Sudanese president Lt. Gen Omar Bashir’s regime is commendable, his refusal to participate in the country’s government unless Gen. Bashir cooperates in implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, largely a U.S.-brokered deal, could backfire. It appears that external forces from the international community — China, for instance, has perhaps the greatest financial investment in the region but has been tepid in working for its stability ó will be needed to compel Khartoum to reduce the violence perpetrated by Gen. Bashir’s political partners and adhere to his promises of peace.
Unfortunate as well is the fact that the United Nations is lagging in its implementation of its much-heralded U.N. Security Council Resolution 1769, and a key U.N. official admitted as much the day before the Bush-Kiir meeting. U.N. representatives have failed to meet multiple goals outlined in Resolution 1769, a $3.4 billion plan to send some 31,000 soldiers and peacekeepers to the region by Dec. 31 of this year in what would be the United Nations’ most expansive mission. But until that manpower arrives, the existing undermanned and under-equipped African Union force, which has struggled in Dar- fur since 2004 with minimal success, will continue to flail and face attacks from rebel militants.
A top U.N. official on Nov. 14 not only criticized Khartoum for resisting contributions from Nordic nations and others, including Nepal and Thailand, but he also warned that other U.N. members need to bolster humanitarian and peace efforts by offering helicopters and other materiel for safety and security purposes. “If those issues are not addressed very shortly, it means the mission in 2008 will not be able to make the difference that the world wants it to make and that it may become a failure,” said Jean-Marie Guehenno, the U.N. undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations.
It is laudable that Mr. Kiir is making the rounds in seeking assistance for the plight of Southern Sudan, of which he is president. But we hope his travels are not in vain. Partisan Washington politics is playing a devilish role.
Mr. Bush has asked Congress to approve $725 million for efforts in Darfur, initially attaching his request to a $50 billion emergency supplemental bill largely containing funds for the conflict in Iraq. Sadly, this $725 million request, along with $70 million Mr. Kiir has requested for help to administer democratic elections in 2009, were rejected by House Democrats, who chose not to include them in the Iraq funds approved by the lower chamber on Nov. 14. A Democratic leadership aide told The Washington Times that congressional leaders plan to approve these Darfur funds sometime next month.
We hope congressional Democrats live up to this promise. Otherwise, Democrats will be rejecting the U.N. timeline for Resolution 1769, allowing the hapless people of Sudan to fall prey to needless partisan wranglings.