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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Sudan and the Concept of Sovereignty

Although the small African Union force tasked with peacekeeping in Darfur has utterly failed in its mission, the Sudanese government is opposed to UN sending troops to assist.

US ambassador to the UN John Bolton said the letter was “a direct challenge” to the Security Council.

A 7,000-strong African force has failed to end Darfur’s three-year conflict.

More than 2m people have fled their homes and an estimated 200,000 people have died.

Sudan does not want the UN to take control of the peacekeeping force from the AU, saying that would be an attack on its sovereignty.

Sovereignty is not just the right of a government to keep its own house, nor it is an absolute injunction against international interference, though. Sovereignty also implies obligations and responsibilities that the Sudanese government is utterly failing to meet. Few people would argue that the UN should respect a nation’s sovereignty if a government is standing by and allowing an ethnic minority to be slaughtered in the streets.

The Sudanese government has stood powerless to stop the killing and the destruction in Darfur. While refugees flee to other countries, militias rule, ineffectual local peacekeepers dither, and the government blunders on, the only potential to stop the killing is to send in international troops. The UN has obligations on this front that it has so far failed to meet.

In allowing the AU troops to try to solve the problem, the UN actually did make the correct choice. Africa, as a whole, will never be truly successful until it has the capacity to police its own problems on the continent. But when it became apparent that the AU troops were going to fail, the UN was bound by its own charter to act to stop genocide. Of course, the UN has failed to act and will probably continue to fail to act and will probably make excuses for its failure to act even as people continue to die. And then, some day in the future when “normalcy” has returned to the region we will hear stories of atrocities, watch movies about the brutality, and raiser our voices and say, “NEVER AGAIN!”

Until the next time it happens because, let’s be serious, it will happen again and the UN will fail its mission.

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