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Sudan Agrees to Non-U.N. Peacekeeping Forces

September 4, 2006 at 6:10 PM EST
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RAY SUAREZ: The conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan grows more deadly, despite renewed international efforts to stop it. Violence and killings are on the upswing, though a cease-fire was signed in May between the central government and Darfur’s largest rebel group.

Sudan rejected a U.N. Security Council resolution last week calling for a U.N. force. And, today, the African Union bowed to a Sudanese demand and said its 7,000 troops would leave the country by the end of the month.

Joining us is the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Jendayi Frazer. She was in Sudan last week.

Welcome.

Assistant Secretary, the U.N. resolution envisioned an African contingent at the core of its force in Darfur. Now the A.U. is going home, and the Sudanese won’t let the U.N. in. What now?

JENDAYI FRAZER, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AFRICAN AFFAIRS: Well, we don’t expect to let the A.U. to actually go home, the African Union. And it’s not at all clear that the government of Sudan has formally asked the African Union to go home.

I have had phone calls and discussions with the leadership of the African Union. And they have not gotten a formal request to leave. What the foreign minister is reported to have said, the Sudanese foreign minister is reported to have said that their mandate ends at the end of September, and they can then leave, if they are not willing to accept assistance from the Arab League and the government of Sudan to stay, that is, to stay independent of the United Nations.

So, I think the diplomacy here is continuing. The government, I believe, of Sudan is playing brinkmanship. They are trying to intimidate the African Union. But I don’t think that they can stand up against the world community.

RAY SUAREZ: But the A.U. shows no signs of being willing to accept Arab League and Sudanese funding for its — its maintenance of some sort of security force in — in western Sudan. Isn’t the — the Sudanese government giving them conditions that they know they will reject, and leave at the end of September?

JENDAYI FRAZER: Well, I think the Sudanese government is giving them unrealistic conditions, because, at the Brussels conference, donors conference to provide assistance to the African Union, none of the Arab countries, except for Qatar, pledged any funding.

The African Union was able to raise $220 million, of which the United States pledged $116 million, Qatar pledged $7.6 million, which was money it had already pledged in March. None of the other countries came forward.

So, the African Union cannot accept conditions which are not realistic.

Sudan's stance

Jendayi Frazer
State Department
The Sudanese government has sent a plan to Kofi Annan, saying that they would put 10,500 troops into Darfur. And they have, in fact, started that offensive.

RAY SUAREZ: What reasons does the Sudanese government give for its refusal to accept a U.N. force on its territory?

JENDAYI FRAZER: Well, they have many reasons, most of which are unrealistic.

One is that somehow this represents recolonization of Sudan. Clearly, it's not the case. We are looking to have a U.N. force in to Sudan to protect innocent lives, to protect civilian lives. An impartial force is necessary. And the world community, through the passage of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1706, have affirmed that desire for an impartial force.

The Sudanese government has sent a plan to Kofi Annan, saying that they would put 10,500 troops into Darfur. And they have, in fact, started that offensive. That cannot be considered an impartial force there to protect the people of Darfur.

And, so, they're -- they are claiming recolonization. They are claiming that it takes over the national institutions of Sudan. It does not. I went to Sudan to consult with them, to understand better their rationale for not wanting the U.N. operation there, and to remind them that, before the Darfur peace agreement was actually signed, they said that they would allow a U.N. force to come in to implement, to help implement the DPA, the Darfur Peace Agreement, to provide for humanitarian assistance and to end any violence against civilian population.

RAY SUAREZ: But what did they tell you about their posture toward an -- any effort to end the killing of civilians in the western part of their country?

JENDAYI FRAZER: During my meetings, they came up with the solution that they would ask the African Union itself to stay, to beef up its presence, and to help them to solve the problems in Darfur, implement the peace agreement, and provide for security, and also provide for humanitarian access.

That was their plan, that the government, along with the African Union, would work together to do this. The African Union, however, knows that it does not have the capacity to deal with a complex situation that is taking place in Darfur today.

And the African Union called for the U.N. to transition it. And that -- that was done as early as March of 2006. And the government of Sudan agreed to that. They said, after a peace agreement was signed, that they would allow a U.N. operation. So, they are changing the terms right in the middle, from the time that I was there last week, until today. Now they are saying they don't want the African Union there, or at least it's reported that that is what is being called for.

Meetings with government

Jendayi Frazer
State Department
I think that it continues to be delay tactics on the government's part. They don't seem to recognize that the world community is not going to allow the conflict in Darfur to continue.

RAY SUAREZ: Did you find your counterparts in Sudan willing to listen to what the United States government has to say? Or did they play games with you, frankly?

JENDAYI FRAZER: Well, I had constructive meetings with the government. Clearly, their official line was that they would not allow a U.N. transition.

Again, as I said, they were looking for the African Union to strengthen its capacity, independent of the United Nations. They also welcomed the U.S. assistance, in the form of humanitarian assistance, and the assistance that we will be -- we have been providing to the African Union force. They recognize that we are the largest donor country helping the people of Sudan.

But, playing games, in some sense, yes, in that I think that it continues to be delay tactics on the government's part. They don't seem to recognize that the world community is not going to allow the conflict in Darfur to continue.

RAY SUAREZ: Didn't the Sudanese leader make you wait two days to see him, because he was very busy?

JENDAYI FRAZER: Well, that is inaccurate reporting, frankly.

RAY SUAREZ: No?

JENDAYI FRAZER: No.

I arrived in Sudan on Saturday evening. And I had meetings all day Sunday with officials. It's their protocol to have the very last meeting of a visit be the president. And, so, my -- my -- I was scheduled to meet with President Bashir on Monday afternoon. And he called and said he couldn't meet on Monday afternoon, but would I be willing to wait until Tuesday morning?

Obviously, this issue was so important that I was willing to wait, you know, a few more hours, the following morning, to meet with the president.

Peacekeeping troops

Jendayi Frazer
State Department
We are continuing to try to work diplomatically with the government, as well as to get other countries, China in particular, to put pressure on the government to come to reason.

RAY SUAREZ: Can a U.N. force, in the case of a humanitarian crisis, enter a country that does not welcome U.N. soldiers on to its territory?

JENDAYI FRAZER: Well, Security Council Resolution 1706, which was just passed, calls for the consent. It doesn't -- it invites the consent of the government of Sudan. It doesn't require the consent of the government of Sudan.

And, clearly, there is a responsibility of the international community to protect innocent civilians who are threatened with death. But we do not foresee the U.N. fighting its way into Darfur. We would want to do this in cooperation with the government of Sudan. And I continue to hold out some hope that the government will come to reason and will allow the U.N. to come in, in a -- in a -- let the multilateral community come in to assist it in implementing the DPA.

RAY SUAREZ: Because, with all this waiting for Sudanese acquiescence, as Ambassador Bolton calls it, United States has already called this a genocide, yet seems to put a lot of store in what the people it feels are complicit in the genocide want to do about it.

It's putting a lot of power in the hands of the Sudanese over whether they are going to stop overseeing the killing of civilians or not.

JENDAYI FRAZER: Sudan is a sovereign country. It, in fact, has a divided government.

The Government of National Unity has not agreed, as a whole, to oppose U.N. peacekeepers coming in. The SPLM, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, calls for peacekeepers coming in, as does the Sudan Liberation Movement of Minni Minnawi.

And, so, not the entire government has called for opposition to the U.N. So, we are continuing to try to work diplomatically with the government, as well as to get other countries, China in particular, to put pressure on the government to come to reason, to recognize that the entire international community is speaking with one voice.

Even the Chinese representative to the U.N. said: We agree with the Security Council resolution. We would have delayed the timing of the vote, but we would -- we agree with the substance, that there needs to be a U.N. operation in Darfur.

And, so, I think everyone is speaking with one voice in this regard.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, you say China in particular. Can the combination of a a China sympathetic to Sudan, and a Sudanese government willing to dig in its heels, slow down a resolution of this problem, in such a way that, while they are stalling, many, many more people can die?

JENDAYI FRAZER: Well, many, many more people are under threat of death.

And, certainly, with the government launching a new offensive, that is more the case than ever. So, we need to continue to work with the Chinese government, and others, Russia as well, to put pressure on the government of Sudan to allow the U.N. to transition, come the end of the A.U. mandate, which is September 31.

Next steps

Jendayi Frazer
State Department
If the government does not come to reason, then, the international community may have to take some hard decisions. But, certainly, we cannot allow innocent civilians to stay unprotected.

RAY SUAREZ: So, what's the next steps now? What is the next steps for United States diplomacy, for the permanent five on the Security Council? We seem to be at a kind of status here.

JENDAYI FRAZER: We're not.

The next steps are to continue on the route that we have been taking, the road that we have taken. We have to continue to put pressure on the government. We now have a Security Council resolution, 1706, that allows the international community to protect innocent -- innocent civilians. It invites the consent of the government of Sudan. It does not require the consent of the government of Sudan.

And, so, at some point, if the government does not come to reason, then, the international community may have to take some hard decisions. But, certainly, we cannot allow innocent civilians to stay unprotected. And that is why the African Union force is there today. It has been there for the last two years. It has been doing a very credible, courageous job.

And, for the government of Sudan to basically stand up to all of the African countries, the members of the A.U., and say to them, we no longer need you here, and to say to them, this is an organization, after all, that President Bashir himself aspires to lead.

How can he throw out that organization from his country? I don't think that presidents of African countries, Nigeria, South Africa and others, are going to allow President Bashir to hold their organization hostage to the demands to not allow the U.N. to come in.

They, in fact, have called for the U.N. to come in. In their own piece of Security Council communique, it recognizes that the government of Sudan agreed to the U.N. coming in after a Darfur peace agreement was signed. Well, that agreement is there. We need to implement it. And we need to protect innocent lives.

RAY SUAREZ: Assistance Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer, thanks for joining us.

JENDAYI FRAZER: Thank you very much.