9 April 2009
Festus Aboagye is a Senior Research Fellow in the Training for Peace Program at the Institute for Security Studies in Tshwane, Pretoria, South Africa.
The humanitarian emergency in Darfur continues to challenge the United Nation's responsibility to protect (R2P) vulnerable populations. ()
It is more than three years since the 2005 World Summit adopted the agenda on 'operationalising' R2P. Since then, the emerging international criminal justice architecture around the role of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in both Africa and elsewhere has provided some momentum in this direction. The deployment of the third European Force in Chad and the Central African Republic ((EUFOR Chad-CAR), as well as of the UN Mission in the CAR and Chad (MINURCRAT), have also helped to stabilise the situation.
However, practical progress in the protection of the vulnerable populations on the ground in Darfur, as in other violent armed conflict areas within the continent, has been painfully slow. The humanitarian situation in Darfur has recently been further compounded by the response of the government of Sudan to the ICC's indictment of its president. Sudan's expulsion of key humanitarian agencies is no doubt an eloquent contempt of the efforts of the UN to address issues of regional and global human insecurity. The subsequent emergence of diplomatic support by the African Union (AU) and the League of Arab Nations further detracts from an effective and speedy resolution of the humanitarian plight of the millions of displaced Darfurians in and out of the country.
These developments cripple the R2P agenda, which formed one of the key outcomes of the 2005 Summit and heralded in an era of hope in building upon the Canadian initiative around the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) in 2000. For the moment, it does appear that the state sovereignty has won the tactical round in the operational campaign to propel the normative R2P discourse to the centre stage of international politics. ()
Among other factors, the UN failed Darfurians with a speedy and decisive intervention because of divisions within the Council itself. Perhaps, the lack of broad and sufficient consensus within the UN Security Council, and perceptions of its double standards in dealing with similar situations in the world, is banal to its own success and effectiveness. It is these weaknesses that the government of Sudan has successfully exploited in thwarting collective international action in implementing the UN R2P strategy in Darfur. Any hope of an effective implementation of the UN R2P strategy in Darfur must therefore start with regaining sufficient global consensus to push this notion beyond the threshold of international normative practice to become a binding international law with universal application.
In the case of Darfur, such an international consensus-building forum must involve the AU, the Arab League and state actors in the region. This new initiative must also go in tandem with progress by the unified mediation to yield the dividend of a more constructive and comprehensive peace accord that addresses political and other disputes pre-dating Sudan's independence in 1956.