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Sudan Tribune

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Darfur – Failure of responsibility to protect principle

By Jean-François Thibault *

November 9, 2006 — Sudanese authorities recently expelled the United Nations Secretary General’s special representative in Sudan, Jan Pronk, because he reported on his personal blog that the government of Sudan was still mobilizing the Janjaweed militia against ethnic African rebels, that the government suffered two military defeats, and that the morale among military personnel was very low after heavy casualties. The situation is symptomatic of Khartoum’s dismissal of and disrespect for the UN Security Council.

However, the situation turns to tragedy when we remember that the so-called international community has accepted, in the UN General Assembly’s World Outcome Document of September 2005, a subsidiary responsibility to protect populations from atrocities (genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity) when their own governments are disinclined to or incapable of acting responsively; that is, when “national authorities are manifestly failing” to protect their populations.

Facts about the situation in Darfur not only show a humanitarian disaster caused by government troops and government-backed Janjaweed militia. They also illustrate that the Sudanese authorities are clearly unwilling to acknowledge their own responsibilities in fomenting that disaster.

Since the summer of 2003, the Janjaweed militias backed by Sudanese army are engaged in a large scale politics of ethnics cleansing that look like genocide. The methods varies from bombing civilians, killing internal refugees, raping women, and forcible displacement of people. More than 300,000 peoples have since been killed, most of them were black. Some 2.5 millions more are internally displaced, and wet another 220,000 are now refuges in Chad.

Those facts shows that Sudan is manifestly failing to protect these populations in Darfur. Expelling Jan Pronk simply confirms that it is now a crucial mistake to think that Sudan’s authorities will back down, or that additional time will make Khartoum more cooperative about an expanded UN force deployed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

UN Security Council Resolution 1706, which called for UN troops and allows for the use of force, was passed on 31 August. The Resolution “invited” the consent of the Government of Sudan. But it can be argued, as the International Crisis Group did in its recent report “Getting the UN into Darfur”, that it does not formally require that consent.

But, with the May Darfur Peace Agreement all but dead, is it not the right moment for the UN Security Council to move beyond the post-Rwandan rhetoric of “never again” and to start making good on its very responsibility to protect Darfuree civilians by pushing for much more robust measures?

Otherwise, it might become very tempting to say that the Responsibility to Protect was indeed an empty shell, and to admit that we simply do not care about what is now happening in Darfur.

* The author is a Jean-François Thibault is professor of Political Science at the Université de Moncton, Canada. He can be reached at [email protected]