Peace in Darfur: Prioritizing or Police Enforcement?
In his comment yesterday, Michael Swigert of Africa Action usefully compares the memorandum that Abdul Mohammed and I submitted to the mediation meeting on March 18, with the Enough report published the following week. Clearly we’re aiming at the same outcome and many of the recommendations are essentially the same. But it is worth dwelling briefly on the differences of emphasis between the two. Enough takes a maximalist approach to peacemaking, arguing that making peace requires the participation of all stakeholders, civilian protection, punishment of perpetrators, and maximum humanitarian programming access.
All of these are desirable things. But to say that they all can be achieved at once is a statement of faith. Experience of the real world cautions us to be rather more pragmatic. This is where we diverge from Enough: Abdul and I think the trade-offs are more difficult and painful.
One of the lessons of humanitarian programming is that relief operations can become entangled in war economies and can create perverse incentives to continue violence. Few people ever argued that this was a deliberate culpable act—it was an unintended consequence. As Michael Maren noted concerning the disastrous international record in Somalia, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
We may be about to learn that civilian protection by international troops in wartime is similar. UNAMID may be capable of doing limited civilian protection in and around IDP camps, saving lives on a modest scale. That is welcome and overdue but it is a far cry from fulfilling a universal responsibility to protect, let alone resolving the political reasons for the conflict. This practical operationalization of the responsibility to protect is akin to the kinds of humanitarian programs that never hastened the end of a war and may, in cases, have delayed that ending.
I have argued that prioritizing protection detracted from peacemaking in Darfur during the critical year when peace was within grasp. It may continue to do so—making UNAMID function is such a demanding task that it will detract from the pressure for peace. And there is no doubt that civilian protection is being used as a substitute for politics in Chad.
There is plenty of people prepared to make the case that prosecution and punishment may stand in the way of making peace. Some of the dilemmas are highlighted in Courting Conflict, a recent collection of essays published by the Royal African Society. Sudan’s CPA involved an amnesty for violators on all sides. Peace may be possible in northern Uganda only through dropping the ICC warrants against the LRA leaders. After Hissène Habré left Chad in 1990 he found himself indicted for war crimes—and his successor Idriss Deby is prepared to die fighting rather than share that fate.
This is not to argue for impunity for crimes against humanity. As a general principle, the costs of committing such crimes should be increased. But specific cases pose tough dilemmas. Nor is it an argument that the ICC is counterproductive. Arguably the main role of the ICC is less to mount prosecutions itself and more to push nations to take the rule of law and accountability seriously. We are a long long way from possessing an international rule of law in which it would be possible routinely to enforce justice against perpetrators.
The participation of civilian stakeholders in peace processes is also a fraught question. Bringing them to the negotiating table can create problems of spoilers, as Michael Swiggert mentions—either they are spoilers themselves or they can push armed groups to become spoilers. (A similar argument was made against me and my colleagues in Justice Africa when we tried to bring Sudan’s northern opposition, including the civilian parties and the Beja and the Darfurians, into the north-south peace process in 2001 and 2002.) The role that Abdul and I are advocating is to build consensus on the key issues among community leaders, civilian parties and civil society, on a separate track to the peace talks themselves. Part of the reason for this is our pessimism about the peace process—we think it is stalled for now and so there is not much point in bringing in additional stakeholders.
A peace process has to be owned by the parties. This was one of the errors of Abuja, documented by Laurie Nathan in his chapter in our book last year. A peace agreement that is drafted by outsiders and pressed upon the parties is much less likely to succeed than one they have worked up themselves. It has to enjoy legitimacy among the general populace. But most importantly it has to be owned by the belligerents. Making peace means making compromises with those who fought, and those who fought most fiercely are the most essential to bring onside. An agreement that is forced upon belligerents will only be respected by them when there is sufficiently strong policing by its guarantors–which means, practically never.
Peacemaking is about pragmatism and politics is the art of the possible. There’s a case for making Utopian demands—but they don’t work in the real world of policy and peacemaking.
In my view the two most important actions that could stimulate Darfur’s peace process are:
1. Begin a commensurate process in Chad. Idriss Deby is a literally getting away with murder because he opposes Sudan and Sudanese backing for his enemies has delegitimized them in the eyes of the international community. Chad needs a peace process just as badly as Darfur.
2. Take coercive military actions off the table. They would be disastrous if undertaken and merely threatening them has the predictable and perverse effect of making both sides in Darfur less likely to compromise. We shouldn’t forget that it was only when the U.S. abandoned its policy of regime change by proxy in early 2001 that the negotiations leading to the CPA got moving.
We can formulate other suggetions too. But the most important thing about any workable proposals is that they shouldn’t come from us, they should come from the Darfurians themselves. We can suggest and facilitate–we cannot formulate the outcome.
I have two main differences from the Enough position. One is the P it ignores: Prioritizing. Which comes first–protection, punishment or peace? The second is the implicit P in its message, Policing. The Enough plan for peace in Darfur is, in my view, possible only if there is a world policeman ready to enforce protection, punishment and peace all at once. If that policeman doesn’t exist the three cannot, I submit, be achieved. And I for one would be hesitant to advocate this final P.