On Our Watch

Alex de Waal

Alex de Waal

The co-author of Darfur: A Short History of a Long War, Alex de Waal first traveled to Darfur in 1985 to complete his Ph.D. in social anthropology. In this interview, he gives a brief overview of the conflict, drawing on the history of the region. He also discusses the obstacles in intervening early in such crises, the problems with the U.N. and its peacekeeping operations, and the impact of Darfur activists -- offering some words of caution about their movement. This is the edited transcript of an interview conducted July 12, 2007.

In simple terms, what is the history of the dispute?

There's a number of overlapping disputes. There are a number of local problems, local disputes over land, over pasture, over farmland and so on, some of which turned violent. And the reason why they began to turn violent was the inflow of arms and armed groups from Chad and that spillover from the Chadian civil war of the 1980s. Added to this was the neglect of Darfur and the fact that the Darfurian elites were increasingly angry at the way in which their region was being completely left behind, completely neglected in Sudan's national development.

Sudan is one of the most unequal countries in the world. If you go to Khartoum you see a middle-income city. You see a city that would not be out of place in many parts of the Middle East surrounded by a hinterland that is not only developing; it's actually predeveloping as some of the poorest parts of the world, and Darfur is among those. And that fueled a huge amount of resentment among the Darfurian elites.

The combination of the militarization of local politics and the collapse of local administration, the absence of any mechanisms for resolving disputes with the grievances of the Darfur elite, led to the beginnings of an insurrection.

The government responded to that insurrection in an extremely heavy-handed way by doing what it has done over the previous 20 years of war in the South and other parts of Sudan, which is to arm a proxy militia, in this case the Janjaweed.

It's a way of fighting a war on the cheap. It's a way of creating turmoil, havoc, destruction that can set back a rebellion, that can fragment the source of support for that rebellion by destroying civilian communities. And it's a way of defeating military challenges to central rule at very, very low cost, but it has a very, very high human price. ...

I called it "counterinsurgency on the cheap." It's the adoption of a militia strategy, and it dates back to the early 1980s, when the then-government of Sudan, the predecessor of this one, realized that it couldn't rely on the national army to defeat insurrections in the South and other parts of the country. So instead they would mobilize local militia, and that's a very cheap way of doing it. You don't need to pay them. They support themselves by looting, especially looting cattle. In the South they also abducted women and children and had them as forced laborers and so on. And in some cases they also take land.

In the case of Darfur, seizing land was one of the main motivations of the local militia, in this case the Janjaweed.

... You coined a phrase: "genocide by force of habit." Can you just explain that?

The way the Sudan government has fought its wars sequentially has been using this militia strategy that creates scorched earth, that creates famine, that creates massacre, and it is counterinsurgency taken to the extreme of such civilian destruction that it is genocidal.

The Sudan government has done this repeatedly, as it did in the South in the late 1980s, in the Nuba Mountains in the early 1990s, in the oil fields in the late 1990s and then in Darfur earlier this decade.

I call this "genocide by force of habit." The ideological agenda I think has vanished. The government calls itself Islamist, but really it's all about power. Even the racial agenda is really not there anymore, because if you look at the war in Darfur, there are Arabs and non-Arabs on both sides. Most of the Arabs tend to have more sympathy and support for the government, but not entirely, and vice versa. So it is a habitual way of fighting a war which is cheap but extremely destructive.

And of course once you arm militias like that you're creating cleavages in any society that will last forever, ... for years.

The situation in Darfur before the war was that the relations between ethnic groups were on the whole pretty good. There was a complementarity between them. There was a lot of mobility, a lot of mixing, certainly a lot of trade.

The militia strategy and the arming, particularly of Arab militias, has created immense bitterness, division and hatred and created new ethnic realities in Darfur. I'm afraid this will be one of the most tragic legacies of this conflict. ...

I was there at the time of the '84-85 famine, so it was a time of considerable turmoil and disruption and enormous suffering. Perhaps 100,000 people died during that famine, so it was a comparable disaster in terms of loss of human life to the disaster of today.

But in the aftermath of that, Darfur was remarkably calm and peaceable, and I could travel the length and breadth of Darfur without any security problems at all, without hearing a shot fired, being given hospitality in any village or any nomadic camp, irrespective of whether they were Arab or Fur or Zaghawa or Masalit or whoever. ...

There's division in the rebel groups, but what is the nature of the division? What's the problem?

The main cause of the division is that the leadership is poor and the level of organization and organizational discipline is almost nonexistent. Sudan is an incredibly unequal country, and it's unequal not just in the economic resources available to the center vis-à-vis the peripheries like Darfur but also in the political resources.

You have extremely sophisticated, extremely well-financed political parties at the center with media at their disposal, with well-trained cadres, with huge amounts of money to dispense. Then in Darfur you get a bunch of students, a bunch of teachers, local elites, some chiefs, some former army officers who come together and try and organize. But they don't have a political party. What brings them together is a supply of armaments, commitment to an ideal, and it's very easy for outsiders like the Sudan government, or indeed the Chad government on the other side, to come in to buy off individuals, to fragment them, to create discord for their own political reasons. The Sudan government is extremely adept and effective at doing that.

What do you make of the whole debate about is it genocide, isn't it genocide?

If we look at the Genocide Convention, that is extremely broad. Yes, it is an attempt to destroy ethnic groups, in part because of their support for the rebellion in the same way that the Sudan government did in the South in the Nuba Mountains and many other governments have done in ethnic wars throughout Africa and other parts of the world.

If we characterize it as an attempt to wholly eliminate an ethnic or racial group as in Rwanda, as in the Holocaust, then it's different. It's not that at all. You still have many non-Arabs who are leading members in the government, many non-Arabs who side with the government and Arabs indeed who have joined the other side.

It's not an eliminationist genocide. It's a brutal counterinsurgency that has used genocidal tactics against the civilian support base of the rebels. ...

I think "crime against humanity," "crimes as heinous as genocide" are the applicable words. And indeed some of the rebels have committed some rather extreme crimes themselves and certainly ought to be called to account for it.

By whatever name it is called, it's atrocious. It has to be stopped.

What, in your view, should we have done?

I think the most important thing is early action and prevention. This is an agenda that everyone pays lip service to, but very, very little is actually done about conflict -- early warning and early action -- to stop these things spiraling out of control.

There were many early warning signs in Darfur, 2001-2002. They were not acted upon. Similarly ... the whistle was blown on Chad in 2004, and absolutely nothing was done because the U.S., the French, the U.N. said, "There isn't a problem yet; this is too sensitive to get involved," until the problem came out of control.

We see the same thing in the neighboring region of South Kordofan in Sudan at the moment, that [there are] very clear signs of emerging large-scale violence. But no one wants to act on it because it hasn't become an urgent issue. There are large numbers of people being killed. And this is the perennial problem of responding to these sorts of crises.

[The former humanitarian coordinator for Sudan] Mukesh Kapila raises it in 2003 with e-mails and memos to the U.N. and then goes public in 2004. Should we not have reacted then?

Certainly early reaction is always much, much better than waiting. And responding in 2003 could have saved us a huge amount of bloodshed, of starvation that happened since.

Why do you think we didn't?

The main reason was that there was no agreed strategy for responding. And the main reason was that internationally, a consensus had emerged after many, many years of hard diplomatic work for how to solve the war between North and South Sudan. This war had gone on for 20 years, had caused untold suffering and been just as destructive and bloody as the war in Darfur.

At long last that war was coming to a conclusion. And just at the critical moment when it was ending, this new war erupted in Darfur, and there was confusion. Should we put the North-South peace process on hold while we address Darfur, or should we address the North-South process first?

There were good arguments to be made on both sides. There was no simple right answer. ... As it was, the North-South peace process was pushed through to fruition. Darfur was neglected. And now with Darfur continuing unresolved, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, North-South agreement, is in grave peril itself. ...

How would you rate the U.N.'s performance in Darfur?

The U.N. has been thoroughly confused on Darfur throughout the system. It hasn't had the clear leadership at the top from the U.N. Security Council, and that's largely not a problem internal to the U.N. That is a problem of the key member states of the U.N. Security Council: the U.S., Britain, France, China, etc. The U.N. has been hostage to those politics.

The U.N. has also been drawn into an issue, which is the peacekeeping issue, which has trapped it. It's trapped its energies. The decision was made in the middle of 2005, which really came out of the Bush White House, that the policy priority for Darfur would be getting U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur, and the peace process in [the Nigerian capital] Abuja, trying to get a political settlement, became secondary to the peacekeeping issue.

Now, there is one good argument in favor of that, which is, why wait for a peace agreement in order to get some civilian protection on the ground? On the other hand, years of experience with resolving these types of complicated wars suggests that the political process must be given priority and that peacekeeping must be a support to a peace agreement.

If peacekeepers are sent without an agreement, that is almost certain to fail. And the U.N. was corralled unwillingly into the role of pushing for U.N. peacekeepers to go in without there being a proper agreement and became hostage to that, ... and it's now foisted with this idea of an African Union-U.N. hybrid force, a novel idea that hasn't been tried. The fear is that neither the U.N. nor the African Union are terribly smoothly functioning bureaucracies -- they both have major internal difficulties in getting anything serious organized, like a peacekeeping force -- and bringing the two of them together could just bring out the worst in both organizations.

And U.N., to its credit, has always held the line: "We don't want to be pushed in this direction. We would like the African Union peacekeepers to handle Darfur. We would like the international diplomats to handle a peace process, and then we come in later on." They've been given quite a short straw.

There are people who have called for an intervention force in Darfur to offer people protection. What is your view of that?

Civilian protection is a fine idea, and I think a stronger peacekeeping force is certainly required. However, a nonconsensual intervention, a militarily enforced no-fly zone, shooting down Sudanese military aircraft or sending in NATO troops against the will, without the consent of the Sudan government is, frankly, a recipe for disaster.

The basis for a successful peace support operation in Darfur is political intelligence. The place is too heavily armed, too complicated, too fragmented for any simple peacekeeping force to work. What's required is a force that has very good political intelligence, worked very, very closely with all the local groups that are there on the ground. It acts pre-emptively when it sees problems coming, monitors very, very carefully the Sudan government's responsibilities to control and disarm the militia, etc., etc.

A force that is sent in nonconsensually can't do any of that. It can't operate politically. It must operate purely by force. It will become part of the conflict itself in the way that the U.N. did in Somalia. It would, I think, be a disaster to try for the U.N. or the U.S. or NATO to fight their way into Darfur.

Do you feel that way generally? ... There are people who believe the U.N. should have a force ready to be deployed, and with the "Responsibility to Protect" resolution, perhaps deployed without permission, not necessarily in Darfur but in the future. Are you opposed to it in principle?

One of the big problems with peacekeeping is the very, very slow speed of deployment. The U.N. has approved this hybrid force in June of 2007. It probably won't be fully stood up until sometime in early 2008. There should be a much, much more rapid way of deploying those troops.

A separate issue is whether the U.N. or any other force actually ought to go in and essentially declare war, actually have an offensive military capability to stop an ongoing genocide as NATO did in Kosovo, for example. Let's have no illusions; let's make no pretenses: That is not a peacekeeping operation; that is actually an offensive military action. It is an act of war, and it will be interpreted by the adversary in those terms.. And it may be a just war. It may be a war that is ethically correct to fight. But if it is ethically correct to fight, it has to be won, because nothing is worse than a war that goes wrong.

Now, in my view, in Darfur it is, first of all, impractical, and secondly, I think, extremely difficult to see how an ethical intervention of that type could actually be mounted without enormous negative repercussions, particularly for the North-South peace process and the democratization process in Sudan. One might be throwing away not only a peace deal but elections which are due to be held in 2008-2009.

So in the case of Darfur, I'm very much against that. In principle, yes, we can have armies on standby, but let's not say that this is a purely humanitarian activity. This will be war-fighting for humanitarian reasons with all the controversies that go with that. ...

Let me be clear on your position on peacekeepers. What is wrong with the hybrid, the 22,000 troops, going in and helping to protect refugees and IDPs [internally displaced persons]?

I'm all in favor of a much larger, better-mandated, more robust peacekeeping force in Darfur. I think definitely it's needed.

I have two criticisms. The first is the core issue of the peacekeeping force, which is, what is it to do? What is its long-term vision? That hasn't been addressed. That peacekeeping force is going to have to be there for five, six, maybe 10 years, and it can only work if it has a long-term vision, if it works with the Darfurian communities, with the militias, with the community-armed groups.

It cannot protect all those civilians on its own. It can only act as a rapid reaction force. It can only bolster the efforts of Darfurians themselves to protect themselves. That vision needs to be there, and that issue has been very much neglected.

The other problem I have with it is that over two years, something like 80 or 90 percent of the international diplomatic energy on Darfur -- and that's very limited energy -- has gone into the U.N. peacekeepers' issue, which means that all the other issues in Darfur and in Sudan have been desperately shortchanged.

The issue of peace itself, the issue of democratization and the North-South peace, these have been hopelessly, hopelessly shortchanged. The U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York, it has had 16 people working on Darfur [and] only one on the rest of Sudan, where it has a major mission and a major enterprise, a huge mandate.

And the failure of the Darfur Peace Agreement and the crisis of the national Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which is just around the corner, these are very, very worrying. If there had been a much, much greater balance of effort and of attention, I think a lot of problems could have been avoided. ...

If you're going to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, you will see one very, very powerful tableau, which is of Gen. Eisenhower arriving at Dachau and seeing the aftermath of the Holocaust, of the Nazi genocide of European Jews.

In a way, that image of the U.S. troops arriving at the site of a genocidal massacre but too late is, I think, the trauma that has gripped the U.S. over the genocide issue for some 60 years now. The sort of repeated loop that goes through the minds of policy-makers and activists is: "The cavalry came over the hill too late. We should have arrived earlier. Next time let's arrive in time." That is an incredibly powerful narrative, and it's essentially the narrative of "never again" in Rwanda. Our cavalry didn't arrive at all, and it was the Rwandese who solved this problem, but too late.

So the question is, why did the U.S. cavalry not get sent to Darfur in time? And this has an extraordinarily powerful grip on our imaginations.

I would argue that we need to step back from that. We need to look at how actually these episodes of mass killing -- be they eliminationist genocide, as in the case of Holocaust or Rwanda, or massive crimes against humanity in the case of war, as in the case of many episodes in Sudan -- how actually they were brought to an end. History tells us that it's very rare for an international intervention force to actually play a role. It happened in Kosovo, there was some role in Bosnia, but elsewhere it's usually because either the killers succeed -- they do their dirty work; they say we've killed enough -- or they fall out among themselves. They cannot agree on how far to go, and they stop. Or maybe a neighboring state intervenes as the Vietnamese intervened in Cambodia or the Indians in Bangladesh. Or maybe the would-be victims resist and they're sufficiently powerful that they bring the genocidal offensive to an end.

I think one of the lessons that we need to learn as activists against these sorts of mass atrocity is how we link up with the other, more important factors that bring these things to an end. What are the domestic constituencies that the international activists must link into, the people who are resisting, be they armed resistance or be that civic resistance?

The Sudanese Parliament, for example, has spoken out on several occasions against what's happening in Darfur, but they haven't had real support from the international activists.

The Darfur rebels have not been really capable of resisting this. There are people within the Sudan government who are opposed to this. There is no unity within that government at all. But those divisions within the Sudan government have not been exploited. In fact, some of the advocacy has driven the Sudan government to close ranks, to unite instead of dividing on this issue.

So I think there are real lessons to be learned empirically, historically, about how best to use the leverage of international shame, of sanctions and of peacekeepers, and indeed on occasions of military action, in support of domestic political processes which are the key to bringing these things to an end.

Some argue [that] the cavalry arriving too late is an argument for "Let's get the cavalry off sooner; let's have a cavalry that stops it."

Having a cavalry to arrive in time is extraordinarily difficult for two reasons. First of all, most governments don't want to send their troops in harm's way for purely humanitarian reasons. They want a zero-casualty war, and a bombing campaign as in Kosovo was the ideal as far as they were concerned. That wouldn't work in Sudan.

Secondly, it is remarkably difficult to justify an early intervention. It's only when the massacres are actually happening that it's possible usually to justify this. ...

Would you view, then, Kosovo as a success? Was Kosovo a model for not necessarily Darfur but possibly in the future?

Kosovo is the one example of a war that has been fought and won for explicitly, avowedly humanitarian reasons. Now, whether that is a model that transfers elsewhere depends upon a huge set of calculations.

There's a very elaborate theory of just war which I think is really the applicable theory to these types of situations, and I don't think we should confuse that with the Responsibility to Protect, robust peacekeeping, such as in the case of Darfur, because if one were to confuse that -- and I think there has been a lot of confusion -- it raises the stakes for the other side.

It means that the Sudan government becomes much more intransigent, much more unwilling to accept any peacekeepers, because they see this as potentially an invading force, and it makes a solution more remote.

But one would argue that the Sudan government has hardly been very compliant to the international community as we sit, right? They've been obdurate and determined not to have any progress so far.

The Sudan government has been extremely difficult and very obdurate. However, it has signed two peace agreements under international supervision: the North-South peace agreement -- and the key provisions of that have been met -- and it signed the Darfur Peace Agreement. Now, the key provisions of that have not been met, but the failure to respect the Darfur Peace Agreement is not solely the responsibility of the Sudan government. It was actually impossible to implement because two out of the three rebel groups didn't sign, and also the key obligations that fell on the international community, including the United States and the African Union, were also not implemented.

There's been no serious monitoring, for example, of the commitments undertaken in the cease-fire commission. There's been no expansion of the capabilities of the African Union force, which the Sudan government has said it will allow.

Unless the international side of the bargain is kept, it is difficult to insist that the Sudan government improves its performance accordingly. Having said that, of course, the Sudan government will take every opportunity that it can to fall short on its commitments.

So where are we on this? Because a lot of the activists are making an apparently valid point that these refugees and IDPs are sitting there, extremely vulnerable, still under attack. ... What should we be doing?

... [Y]ou have a very different situation in 2007 than you did [at] the height of the offensive, 2003-2004. ...

... [W]hat we have seen in Darfur is a pattern very familiar from the Sudanese civil wars over the last 25 years. You see a horrendous offensive which, in the case of Darfur [during] 2003-2004, perhaps 40,000 people [were] killed, perhaps 150,000 subsequently died of hunger and disease and exposure because of forced displacement and famine. After that you have a quietening down and a fragmentation. You have a much lower-level, but extremely nasty, war, with perhaps 100 people being killed every month.

Now, this is not 100 civilians being slaughtered by the Janjaweed every month. It has peaks and lulls. It includes battles. ... It also has Arab tribes fighting each other. Those have been some of the main sources of fatalities in the last six months, the early part of 2007. It also has the rebel group from [the Sudan Liberation Army leader] Minni Minnawi attacking other groups especially and creating a lot of problems for aid agencies and so on. And you have an aid operation that, against considerable odds, has brought mortality and malnutrition levels down to normal. Now, what is required to resolve that situation?

The real sign of progress that I see, the thing that is most optimistic, is something called the Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation, which is being conducted under African Union auspices. For the first time this is allowing Darfurian community leaders to come together and really talk at length about what are their problems and how they resolve them.

This is not a substitute for a peace process, but what it does is it is the basis for a peace process, because it raises the key issues that need to be addressed by the political leaders. And a lot of issues are surfacing in this process that have been obscured in the wider peace process. One of the key issues that emerges from this is the determination of ordinary Darfurians to be able to vote in the national elections that are scheduled for 2008 or 2009. Many of the displaced, for example, feel that they will be disenfranchised because they are displaced; they're not in their home villages. Many of them fear that the Chadian and West African Arabs who have been brought into Darfur by the government are being given votes and will be therefore electing the members of Parliament the displaced ought to be electing themselves.

This is an issue that I think has been completely invisible, but it is uppermost in the minds of many of the Darfurians and is coming to the surface now. So if we're to focus on some of these political issues, then definitely we can begin to see some political progress.

If there were to be a free election in the whole of Sudan in a couple of years' time, the political landscape would undoubtedly be transformed.

Where is the Darfur Peace Agreement as we sit?

The Darfur Peace Agreement is very good on paper. In practice it counts almost for nothing now. Any negotiated peace will almost for sure take that text as the starting point, because there's a great deal in it that was agreed by all sides. A great deal in it was very favorable to Darfurians.

But politically speaking, it has no attraction, because the people who have been put in senior positions as a result of this really have very, very little credibility among the Darfurians as a whole. The key players are not part of it, and it's not going to fly.

And what are the dangers of ... a resurgence in the genocidal behavior or Somalization of the region? ...

The trend that we see at the moment is, again, a familiar trend from Sudan and neighboring countries, particularly Chad, which is warlordism, which is really anarchy -- the destruction of any legitimate authority, the militarization of society -- so that displaced people are unable to return home, that communities are unable to re-establish normal relations with one another. The Sudanese security services can ride atop this disorder, paying off people here and there without any serious challenge coming to their power at the center. This can go on for a very, very long time, because economically, politically, it simply doesn't hurt Khartoum at all.

It continues to allow this monstrous crime of mass ethnic cleansing to remain unaddressed. Millions of people continue to live in utter misery, continuing insecurity and hundreds of deaths every month. ...

So do you see Chad falling apart as well?

Chad is in a very precarious situation. It could fall apart into major civil war with a continuation of intensification of the atrocity and ethnic cleansing in the eastern part of the country. ...

[T]he new government in France -- France having been the maker and breaker of many governments in Chad -- may lead to a reorientation in Chad. The French policy up to now has been that the president, Idriss Déby, is pretty undesirable, but he's the least bad of the bunch. If he were to go, his replacement would likely be a candidate backed by Khartoum, most likely a Chadian Janjaweed, and they certainly don't want that. ...

What about China? What role does China play in all this?

In recent years China has been a main partner, financier, diplomatic ally of the Sudan government and as such a counterweight to the U.S. The U.S. can no longer dictate its terms as it did really with regard to the North-South peace in 2001-2002.

Having said that, China's influence is limited. The Chinese have tried to push Sudan toward accepting an expedited hybrid force in Darfur. The Sudan government is quite capable of saying no to China, so it would be a mistake to see the solution entirely in China's hands. If China, the U.S. and France were to converge on a common position, then I think the Sudan government would have much less leverage. It would be really required to go along with that position.

But I think China has other things at stake here, too. China's eye is on long-term stability, and it wants a long-term political settlement for Sudan as a whole, both because of its specific investments in Sudan in the oil industry and also as a matter of principle.

It sees political stability as one of its main aims in its new engagement in Africa, and it doesn't want to be drawn into what it sees as a dangerous precedent of what it would characterize as rash U.N. Security Council resolutions authorizing, for example, nonconsensual deployment of troops.

If the U.S. is to come to a common position with China on Sudan, the U.S. also needs to adjust its position. It also perhaps needs to refocus on the longer-term political future of Sudan, the real center of gravity of the Sudanese problems.

What do you make of the activists who have [launched the] "Genocide Olympics" campaign?

I think the Genocide Olympics campaign has been extraordinarily successful in getting China to take notice. The U.S. administration had already made some progress in that regard, but this campaign has gone much, much further and much, much faster than anyone would have anticipated.

I think it's very important for the activists to define success. What is it exactly that they want China to do? Because China is going to be around for a long time in Sudan and in Africa, and China has to be a strategic partner. If the activists are asking China to support the deployment of U.N. troops in Darfur, then if China does that, then the activists should say, "Well done, thank you very much," and then they gain some political capital. And next time they want the Chinese to act on an issue, China may well comply.

If, however, the campaign starts moving the goalposts, if China does comply and then the activists make additional demands because they think, "Aha, China has leverage," that may backfire, because the Chinese would say, "Forget these people; they're unreliable; we can't do business with them," and then the leverage that China has might be lost. ...

Update: On Feb. 12, 2008, filmmaker Steven Spielberg withdrew as artistic advisor to the Beijing Olympics. Activists had pressured him to resign over China's economic and diplomatic support of the Sudanese government. "At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies, but on doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur," Spielberg said in a statement.

Let's talk a little about the advocacy movement in America. How would you characterize that?

I think the advocacy movement has been extraordinarily effective [at] getting the issue of Darfur to have a high public profile and getting the world to take notice. ... Has that translated into real progress on the ground in Darfur? Well, certainly there are some very tangible things that have happened. It's helped the funding for humanitarian agencies. It's meant that there's been a referral to the International Criminal Court.

It hasn't helped the political process much, and in fact it may have contributed to some perverse incentives. It may have contributed to the intransigence of some of the rebel leaders who refused to sign the Darfur Peace Agreement, thinking that they would get a better deal because the activists would, for example, deliver on U.N. troops.

I was there in the very final session of the Darfur peace talks in Abuja, and Abdel Wahid al-Nur, [the leader of a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army], refused to sign, demanding guarantees like Bosnia. He wanted a military intervention like Bosnia, and he didn't get it, and his failure to get that assurance and his belief that he could get that assurance contributed to his refusal to sign and [to] the ongoing crisis. I think he should have been more modest in his ambitions. And I think the activists need to recognize that they're not going to get an ideal solution, but they need to get a workable solution, and a real peace process had to be at the heart of that.

The real challenge for the Save Darfur groups is how they translate their particular focus on Darfur into other issues. If this is to be a permanent anti-genocide constituency, which could be the real, positive, lasting legacy of this, how are they to move beyond the slogans that they have and the focus on peacekeepers, which I think is a bit misleading?

The focus really ought to be on peace first, peacekeepers second. How do they translate it to other places, to other looming crises like other parts of Sudan, like South Kordofan, like Upper Nile, where the crises could be looming in the next year or two, and still maintain the membership and the momentum of this campaign? That's a very, very difficult thing to do. ...

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posted november 20, 2007

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