Mosques and coffee shops
Posted on behalf of Timur Goksel. Timur Goksel served first as the official spokesman and then as the senior advisor of UNIFIL between 1979-2003. He now consults on conflict and peacekeeping and teaches the same at American University of Beirut.
I am sure the hybrid UN-AU mission in Darfur created by Security Council Resolution 1769 has enabled all those watching the Darfur tragedy helplessly all these years to claim a victory of sorts. But will it work?
With 24 years of service with a UN peacekeeping operation in south Lebanon and four years of university and seminar lecturing on peacekeeping and conflict issues, I am afraid it won’t. The UN is hardly capable of running its own complex peacekeeping operations. How the UN will ever manage an operation that is to be effectively commanded by an inexperienced, under-resourced and relatively new regional organization that has more than a few teething problems is beyond comprehension. I predict the worst possible command, control and management problems for UNAMID, especially if it opts for a robust enforcement philosophy.
The only hope for this mission is a well-defined “community peacekeeping” or what is commonly known as “winning the hearts and minds” of the belligerents and public affected. The African Union does not appear to be aiming at the newly fashioned “robust peacekeeping” that entails treating the mission as a military operation. If the African Union understands that a compassionate approach that involves going down to grassroots, building confidence with the relevant public will also mean the best possible way of gathering intelligence and taking preventive measures based on that intelligence, UNAMID has a chance. Otherwise it will be yet another mission with soldiers in their armored cars or behind/inside their fortresses helplessly watching and reporting.