January 2007

31 December was my last day as Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) of the United Nations in Sudan. Since 24 October, when the Government of Sudan had declared me persona non grata, I have not been able to contribute much to policy making. I could of course no longer lead the UN Mission in Sudan itself. Moreover, the UN leadership in New York had concluded that I should also not participate in policy meetings outside Sudan. They were afraid to provoke the Government. In my view that was not a wise approach. The Government had unilaterally taken the decision to expel the highest official of the United Nations in Sudan. It thereby had violated agreements with the UN and challenged both the UN Secretary General and the Security Council. The Government had done so because I had, on behalf of the UN, criticized the Government for violations of international agreements and human rights. It seemed that the Government could do this without receiving any reaction from New York. The Security Council, always rather quick in issuing statements or press releases when Members do not yet want to adopt a Resolution, did not officially protest against the Sudanese decision. Yet the Sudanese decision had been clearly aimed at undermining the mandate given by the Security Council to the UN Mission in Sudan. The letter sent by Minister of Foreign Affairs to the Secretary General, in which the Sudanese authorities informed the UN of their decision, has even never been answered. It turned out that there was dispute between UN officials in New York about the tone of such an answer. Several drafts were considered, but finally some officials came to the conclusion that it had become too late to send an answer. They did not inform their superiors and the latter did not ask questions.

It was a bureaucratic, a-political approach. The Government could only come to the conclusion that they can get away with anything. The Security Council does only talk. It does not act. The UN bureaucracy is afraid to risk friendly relations with a member state. This is exemplary for the relation between the Security Council and Sudan from the very beginning. During 2003 and the first half of 2004 the cleansing in Darfur had resulted in mass killings and in the chasing away from their homes of more than a million people. However, the Security Council had refused to put this catastrophe on its agenda, despite early requests from many witnesses not to stay silent but to act. The Council only started to discuss this in July 2004, when it was already too late to revert the situation. The US began to refer to the mass murder as 'genocide', only after the raping and killing had reached their height. Thereafter the Government of Sudan has put aside all demands by the Security Council that the Janjaweed would be stopped and disarmed. Indeed, the Government had any reason to believe that they could continue to allow or support the cleansing and killing without being hindered by the international community.

In my view one of the mistakes of the Security Council has been that the Members in fact are only considering one specific instrument: whether or not to send a peacekeeping mission. However, peace keeping can only take place when there is peace. To get peace requires to agree on a sustainable cease fire, to establish institutions that can guarantee such an agreement, to stop attacks on civilians, to stop fuelling or allowing para-military groups carrying out atrocities, to negotiate an agreement addressing the root causes of the conflict and to find a compromise. When parties are reluctant to do all this, vigorous multilateral diplomacy is required in order to push for peace. This diplomacy should go beyond issuing resolutions or statements. The claims and demands in those statements should be politically followed up, rather than shifted aside. This requires a follow up in concrete terms, which implies more than another statement, or a request for another report or another investigation. Everything has already been reported; enough facts have been brought to the attention of the Security Council. The fact that the demands of the Council have not been implemented is no secret, but public knowledge. In such a situation the Council should react with clear measures: diplomatic, political, legal, financial or economic sanctions against those who do not comply. There are many possibilities, but the Council has always shied away from applying any sanction. Instead of creative and vigorous multilateral diplomacy the Council has continued to discuss the modalities of a peacekeeping mission. However, because it was clear from the beginning that the Permanent Members of the Security Council - US, UK, Russia, China and France - would not be able to reach consensus about imposing a Chapter 7 peacekeeping mission, such a mission could only be sent to Sudan under Chapter 6 of the UN Chapter, that is with the agreement of the Sudanese themselves. As is well known, the Government of Sudan has consistently refused to accept or 'invite' (terminology of Security Council Resolution 1706) such a mission. So, there was no response to the violations, neither in the form of sanctions nor a mission.

So, the Security Council by its inaction is eroding its own authority. It is understandable that the various members of the Council, the permanent ones and the other, have different political interests. However, the Council as a whole has the obligation to act, on behalf of the world community, in the interest of world peace and security. Members of the Council may have different perceptions about conflicts that may endanger peace and security. However, together, as a body, they are bound to reach an agreement amongst themselves. No country is a Member of the Council against its own will. It is their choice. They have ratified the Chapter. They five permanent Members have vigorously guarded their preferential position and the rights that go with it. The others have actively campaigned to be elected as a temporary member. Being a Member does not imply that a country's interests are identical with those of all others. However, it does imply a common interest of all Members that the Council, the highest political body in the world, will be respected and that its decisions are implemented. The composition of the Council does no longer reflect the power relations in the present world, as against during the ninety forties of the previous century, when the UN and the Security Council had been established. Reform of the Council is due. However, as long as such a reform has not been agreed, the Council in its present form and composition should be respected and act in order to keep that respect.

There are many conflicts in the world in which the Council has not been able or willing to enforce respect. Sudan is only one of those. On more than one occasion high political officials in Sudan have told me that they had weighed the risk of non-compliance with Security Council resolutions against the risk of compliance. Non-compliance might bring them in conflict with the Council and its members: sanctions and threats against the regime. Compliance would entail a different risk: domestic opposition and efforts to change the regime from within. They had compared and weighed those risks meticulously, they told me, and they had come to a rational conclusion: the risk of compliance would be much greater than the risk of non-compliance. They have been proven right. So far, the risk of non-compliance has been nil. The authorities could continue to disregard Security Council resolutions, to break international agreements, to violate human rights and to feed and allow attacks on their own citizens rather than protect them. They could do all this without having to fear consequences. On the contrary, the Council and its Members and the rest of the international community have been taken for a ride.

This has continued during the last two months of 2006. In the five-point plan that I had presented to the September meeting of the Council I had argued that the Council should focus more on talks to get peace than on a force to keep the peace. I had also argued in favour of a process approach towards a peacekeeping force. Rather than aiming at a complete and direct transition of the present forces of the African Union (AU) into a full-fledged UN force at one specific moment of time, a gradual change would be preferable. The AU forces could be supplemented by other forces, for instance from the Arab League and also from the UN, step by step, so that mid next year the peacekeeping force would be larger, stronger and different. I was convinced that such a gradual approach would be more acceptable to the Government of Sudan, which under the present circumstances anyway should have to give its consent and to sell its acceptance domestically. In its meeting in October the Security Council seemed to have become sympathetic to what was called by some Members a 'creative' implementation of Security Council Resolution 1706. So, in November a number of meetings took place in Nairobi and Abuja between representatives of the UN, the AU and the Government of Sudan. It was decided to start with a 'light support package' to the AU forces already present in Darfur, which would be followed by a 'heavy support package' in the beginning of 2007 and, half a year later, in a so-called 'hybrid force', consisting of AU and UN troops.

This was an important step forward. However, already one day after the agreement was reached the Government started to back off. It insisted, first, that the UN troops would not be allowed to wear blue helmets and, second, that the final stage - the hybrid force - was out of the question. Moreover, the supporting UN troops would only be allowed to consist of logistical and administrative personnel and would have to be of junior rank only. The blue helmet requirement, essential for member states of the UN when they decide to make troops available, in the meantime has been solved. However, the Government has stuck to its other positions. Khartoum has insisted that a tripartite mechanism be created, consisting of the AU, the UN and the Government itself. This mechanism should discuss all matters concerning the implementation of the agreement before this implementation would take place. In fact this means that the Government from now on has the political power not only to give, withhold or withdraw its consent to a peacekeeping force, but also to veto all troop movements and all steps that the AU and the UN may deem necessary to protect civilians.

It is remarkable that the Government has been granted all this. It is even more remarkable that it has also been decided during these meetings that the UN and the AU will make the appointment of the new SRSG jointly. This means that my successor, yet to be appointed, will receive instructions from both the AU and the UN and that he or she will have to report to both. This will be difficult in itself, both politically and in terms of management and accountability. Moreover, the main task of the SRSG is to chair a Mission that basically has been mandated to keep the peace between North and South Sudan. The AU has no role in this. The Government in Juba, which unlike the other party, the Government in Khartoum, is not directly represented in the AU, needs to have full confidence in the impartiality of an SRSG.However, Juba had not been consulted when the decision was made concerning the joint appointment by the UN and the AU. This could become quite embarrassing when, which is not unlikely, President Bashir of Sudan, would be elected as the new President of the African Union. In January 2006 the Heads of State of the African Union, gathering together at the Summit in Khartoum, had not wished to honour his candidacy. They had decided to postpone the election, until there would be peace in Darfur. Since the AU-brokered Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) the Government has gone out of its way to spread the message that there is indeed peace in Darfur. There is no peace on the ground, due to the violations carried out by Khartoum, but these violations have gone unchallenged by the AU. This will make it difficult for the African Heads of State to postpone the election again. This would imply that the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations, with a mandate to monitor and mediate between parties to a conflict, would also have to report to an organisation presided by one of the parties themselves. This then would be the case for both the conflict between the North and the South and the one in Darfur. None of the UN officials involved in the deal with the AU in Addis and Abuja seems to have given any thought to this.

As a matter of fact the talks in Addis and Abuja again mainly focused on the modalities of a peacekeeping force, rather than on ways and means to establish peace. During these talks the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) continued to carry out air raids. The Janjaweed, enlisted in the Sudanese paramilitary forces and supported by the Air Force, continued to attack villages. These were the policies that I had criticized. This criticism had brought the Government to the decision to expel me. However, in Addis and Abuja the UN and the AU did not make a further agreement with Khartoum conditional on a halt to the bombings and the attacks. On the contrary, clearly in order to get the consent of Khartoum for a hybrid force, they accepteda number of principles dictated by Khartoum. One of these principles reads: “The DPA is the only basis for the peace process and should not be re-negotiated”. This is a non-starter. After the experiences of the last eight months it is unbelievable that such a position has beenaccepted by the UN and the AU and has been given the status of a principle. That the Government does not want to change the text of the DPA is well known. It is also well known that the rebel movements and their constituencies in the camps have rejected the DPA. New talks to change and improve the text, led by either the AU or the UN, are necessary. Without improvements, resulting from a new series of talks with representatives of all rebel movements, there will not be peace.

In Addis and Abuja the Government was clearly not interested in new talks. Khartoum was even able to convince the AU and the UN to accept a second position as a principle: “No party outside the DPA should be allowed to undermine its implementation”. What about the undermining by the DPA-parties themselves, including the Government of Sudan and the forces under its control? Their violations have not been addressed at all. On the contrary, the Government can now use this internationally accepted principle to justify ongoing attacks by the Army and the Janjaweed.

So, in the last two months of the year in many respects the position of Khartoum has become stronger than before. The situation in Darfur has further deteriorated. Never before the number of UN staff and aid workers that had to be evacuated or relocated due to an untenable insecurity situation was as high as during these months. Despite this Khartoum is spreading the message: “there is peace in Darfur, except in some pockets, but that is due to the UN …..” Time and again Khartoum has been able to get away with such a message.

Harassment of the UN Mission in Sudan has intensified during the last two months. Sudanese authorities can easily resort to such harassment, because they have not been challenged by UN Headquarters in New York, nor by the Security Council or by Governments of Member States. Some weeks ago one of our officials went to see the authorities in Darfur in order to raise a number of violations of human rights. The answer was exemplary for the self-confidence of those who have chosen to disregard any form of criticism: “You better shut up. We can always expel you, as we have proven”.