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In the first in a series of conversations about what can be done about the Darfur crisis, Susan Rice, the assistant secretary of state for Africa under President Clinton, argues for international military forces to pressure the Sudanese government to end the fighting.
Yesterday, U.N. and African diplomats announced that Sudan had agreed in principle to a new plan to stop the killing in Darfur. The 3-year-old conflict in the western part of Sudan has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.
The new plan calls for sending a combined African Union and U.N. force of 17,000, plus 3,000 police, to Darfur. But diplomats said Sudan hadn't yet agreed to the size of the force nor to the command structure.
With us is former Clinton Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Susan Rice. She's now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
SUSAN RICE, Brookings Institution:
So this agreement announced yesterday, is this the breakthrough that the world's been waiting for?
I'm afraid not. Even if the Sudanese government agrees to it — and it's far from sure that it will — I think this amounts to a colossal sell-out, and let me explain why.
We began with the notion of a U.N. force, 22,000 strong, with a robust mandate from the United Nations Security Council, to protect civilians and stop the genocide. What we have, if this agreement goes through, is very, very unclear.
First of all, it's a smaller force. Secondly, it's to be comprised predominantly of African forces, but we know there aren't African forces to fulfill the mandate. The reason why the African Union in the first place asked for a U.N. force is because it was unable to beef up its strength even to its authorized level.
So there's 7,000 African Union forces. They've had a mandate for over a year to get to 12,000. They can't do it, because the troops aren't available. So we've created, in effect, a vacuum, unless, of course, the African troops are meant to come from Libya and Egypt, which is quite possible. They are Khartoum's best friends in Africa, and their objectivity and their commitment to saving civilians that Khartoum has been killing is questionable, indeed.
So we have a fig leaf here that won't solve the problem that the president and the international community and the United Nations have said we're committed to solving, which is providing meaningful protection to civilians on the ground in Darfur. I'm afraid it's a very grim development.
So what is your alternative?
The alternative is to go back to the idea that we were dealing with some months ago, which is a robust United Nations force, with a Chapter 7 enforcement mandate of 22,000 or more, where the forces come from all over the world to backstop and augment the African presence that's already there.
Those forces would include elements of support from NATO as the president, in the past, has suggested. And the Sudanese government should be made to accept that force.
We are now, instead, in the ridiculous situation of the international community and the United States negotiating with the perpetrators of genocide about what the international community can and will do to stop it. That is a perverse outcome in the first place. And the Sudanese who are committing the genocide are actually winning this negotiation.
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