Yesterday was the International Day for UN Peace Keepers. A day designated for honoring the 65 years of service and sacrifice of UN Peace Keepers serving in missions around the world. Missions that seek to bring stability to conflict zones, give protection to civilian populations, and pave the way for transitions to peace and prosperity; and while it’s absolutely important to recognize the sacrifices of men and women from all over the world, embarking on these missions, often in dangerous places and contexts, I also want us to recognize what happens when peace keepers are sent into a region or country with a weak mandate and without the true support from the host government. I want us to recognize how this circumstance impacts the safety of those Peace Keepers. How it derails other meaningful progress on comprehensive peace by giving the ones truly in control, the genocidal government, time to continue doing what it does – kill people and retain power.
Take the African Union/United Nation Hybrid peacekeeping operation in Darfur – UNAMID. Established in 2007, with the overall objective of protecting civilians. UNAMID has largely struggled to do so, and instead continues to operate within a weak mandate and among a hostile and dangerous environment that lacks sufficient infrastructure and support from local stakeholders. Why? Well, the Government of Sudan (GoS) remains resistant in allowing their effective deployment and operations. Under the influence of the GoS, the UNAMID mandate was designed to dilute and diminish the peacekeepers’ role and their ability to move around the region. In reality, UNAMID is under control of the GoS. The GoS actively prevents UNAMID from visiting certain areas in Darfur, which considerably reduces its ability to assume its function effectively and to generate the required change and protection on the ground in Darfur. In turn, war-affected populations and IDPs in Darfur are losing confidence and trust in UNAMID. UNAMID has been subject to angry encounters, demonstrations and victims of violence. Nevertheless, the UN Security Council continues to mandate the extension of its operations in the region, all the while the GoS remains in power and in control.
Yes, we can all agree that the presence of a robust and capable UNAMID would have a hugely beneficial effect on the vast amounts of victims of the armed conflict in Darfur, but the GoS does not allow them to be robust or capable. Therefore, as we honor the UN Peace Keepers, let’s also reflect on the reality that a force has been deployed that has not made a difference, that does not have the capability to defend itself and that carries the risk of tragic failure for the people of Darfur. And when will we stop allowing the Government of Sudan to continue to control and manipulate the situation and the deaths of a people?