Democracy Arsenal

April 24, 2008


Darfur, the other five year war.
Posted by Anita Sharma

The other five year war, Darfur, may receive less attention than Iraq but that doesn’t mean that the level of suffering is less horrific, or the path to peace any easier. In fact the situation is actually worsening: more people are dying and being displaced, food rations to the needy are about to be cut in half, the full deployment of a new peacekeeping force has been delayed until 2009 and the Sudanese government and rebel groups are resisting new peace negotiations.

"We continue to see the goal posts receding, to the point where peace in Darfur seems further away today than ever," said John Holmes, under secretary general for humanitarian affairs at the UN. In his report to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Holmes said of Darfur's estimated 6 million people, some 4.27 million have now been seriously affected by the conflict and perhaps as many as 300,000 have been killed.

Although the needs continue to be great, the World Food Program recently announced it was cutting food rations in half because attacks on its trucks have reduced stocks. Today the WFP said that one of its drivers was killed when his truck broke down during a police escorted aid convoy, further illustrating the perils.

UNAMID, the a joint U.N.-African Union force agreed to by Sudan, was supposed to be deployed to offer protection to convoys like these. But so far only about 9,000 of the authorized 26,000 peacekeepers have been deployed. Yesterday, Jane Holl Lute, a senior U.N. official who overseas the organization's field operations, (and my former boss at the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict), briefed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and said that the mission lacks still lacks five critical capabilities to become operational – attack helicopters, surveillance aircraft, transport helicopters, military engineers and logistical support, not to mention the other soldiers to fulfill the mission.

During the same hearing the U.S. Envoy to Sudan Richard Williamson defended the U.S. decision to meet recently with Sudan's government about the possibility of better ties, and said that concrete progress toward ending the "slow-moving genocide" in Sudan's Darfur region must take place before the United States will improve relations with Khartoum.

So what needs to happen?

First: give the UN the equipment is so desperately needs. According to Lute there are 4,000 helicopters currently in NATO countries. This mission requires 24.

Second: according to Ken Bacon, the President of Refugees International, the international community needs to pressure both the government of Sudan and the fractious rebel groups to get to the peace table.

The U.S. and its European and Middle Eastern allies should impose strict travel sanction on Sudanese government and rebel leaders until they reach a peace agreement. In addition, arms embargos on both the government and rebel groups should be closely enforced.

Third: keep up the pressure on China. Although recent events in Tibet have over-shadowed Darfur in terms of Beijing's human rights record, the issue remains the same. China is the top arms supplier to Sudan and a major investor in Africa's largest country, particularly in its oil industry. It has tremendous influence on Khartoum’s decisions. While not calling for a boycott or the Olympics, on Wednesday Dream for Darfur released report cards of the top Olympic sponsors and said 16 out of 19 top Olympic sponsors it had contacted had failed to speak out against the genocide out of fear of offending China. It said it would target corporate headquarters for protests, starting with Coca-Cola.

All three presidential candidates say that President Bush should skip the opening ceremonies if China does not improve its human rights record in Tibet and Darfur. Thus far the leaders of Great Britain, Germany, Canada, Poland, Estonia and the Czech Republic have said they will not attend the opening ceremonies.

Senator Barack Obama, D-Presidential Candidate: "If the Chinese do not take steps to help stop the genocide in Darfur and to respect the dignity, security and human rights of the Tibetan people, then the president should boycott the opening ceremonies.”

Senator Hillary Clinton, D-Presidential Candidate: “At this time, and in light of recent events, I believe President Bush should not plan on attending the opening ceremonies in Beijing, absent major changes by the Chinese government."

Senator John McCain, R-Presidential Candidate: "Unless they change something pretty quickly, I would not go to the opening ceremonies.”

However, President Bush says he will attend the Games.

"I don't view the Olympics as a political event. I view it as a sporting event," he said.

January 30, 2008

Africa, Democracy, Human Rights

In Women’s Absence, No Security for Kenya
Posted by Marie Wilson

Today, the National Council of Women of Kenya decried their exclusion from the current mediation talks being lead by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.  The Council’s chair, Isabella Karanja, condemned Kenya’s disregard for UN Security Council Resolution 1325 that supports women's participation in mediation.  I’ve been paying close attention to Kenya’s dramatic social and political breakdown, and I can assure you that the exclusion of women from the mediation process is not only unjust – it is a grave sentence for the Kenyan people and their nation’s future.

The country’s rapid descent into violence and relative chaos was sparked by a crack in the veneer of its successful democracy, and attributed to tribal anger and the back-and-forth of ethnic reprisals.  But the violence that Kenyans are suffering, and that we witness in disturbing daily imagery, is rooted in the nation’s lack of access to jobs and healthcare, inequalities in land and resources – all glaring disparities which are funneled into ethnic tensions.  Kenya’s current malaise will only be cured through the acknowledgement of human security as fundamental to state security.  And the issues which make up human security are the issues that women have continually championed worldwide: basic human needs like economic and environmental justice, safe streets, healthcare and education.

Kenya is not unique.  With few exceptions, women have found themselves systematically closed out of the security debate – with severe consequences for national and global security.  Which is why The White House Project, along with a myriad of other groups across the globe, have come together to permanently shift the way we think about, and enact policy, on security. 

In November of 2007, The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands in partnership with The White House Project, the Council of Women World Leaders and the Women Leaders Intercultural Forum, convened the historic International Women Leaders Global Security Summit in New York, bringing together over 75 of the worlds most powerful women leaders in a Call to Action on international security.  Under the leadership of co-hosts Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, and Kim Campbell, former Prime Minister of Canada, they worked together to tackle the world’s most critical security issues. And in the Summit’s aftermath, hundreds of women and men alike have signed on to this critical cause, committing their resources to uphold the bold imperative of crafting policy that holds human security to be intimately intertwined with state security.  I encourage you to join this vital effort and sign the Call to Action as well.

We are witnessing moves in the right direction, and I am heartened by the women and men around the world currently working on issues of human security.  When I was researching the new afterward to my book, Closing the Leadership Gap, I was buoyed by how far women have come in the field of security since the book’s original publication four years ago.  But there is so much further that we need to go in order to normalize women’s leadership in this area, and truly listen to the women working on the ground when we craft national policy.  From Kenya’s post-election violence to the devastation in Iraq, we need women’s voices to be an integral part of the conversation.  As the scale of violence and human insecurity continues its rapid escalation, the critical paradigm shift on security cannot wait a moment longer.

May 20, 2007


Holding Mugabe to Account
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

This is a piece I published at on whether Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe ought to be offered immunity in exchange for a swifter exit.  Its the old "peace versus justice" dilemma, with the new wrinkle being that the culture of impugnity in Africa has finally showed some signs of fading, meaning that now is not the time to put aside principle and revert back to old ways.  One depressing aspect is that some of my earliest pieces for Democracy Arsenal more than two years ago (like here and here) were about Zimbabwe, and since then things have changed only for the worse.  Its almost enough to make you want to do a deal, any deal, to get rid of Mugabe . . .

At long last, we seem to be approaching--fitfully--global agreement than Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's elected dictator, must go. He is presiding over 80 percent unemployment, an inflation rate of 1,700 percent, and shortages of nearly all basic goods. In response to his troubles, Mugabe has attacked and injured opposition leaders, opened fire on protestors, and beaten those who resist arrest. In a comparison that is as harsh as it gets in southern Africa, clerics have equated his tyrannical tactics to the worst of Pretoria's apartheid regime.

And, since many of his critics now believe that toppling his regime--and getting a fresh start for Zimbabwe--is more important than holding him to account, there are increasing calls for Mugabe to be forgiven. Zimbabwe's opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai--whose skull was cracked open in police custody last month--has hinted that Mugabe should be offered immunity if he agrees to step down. The International Crisis Group, in a March report, likewise assumed that immunity would be part of the solution. It is widely surmised that, if current efforts by South African President Thabo Mbeki help end to Mugabe's rule, protection from prosecution may be part of the deal.

But, while immunity may seem a tempting solution--no worse than the way many other tyrants have left office--offering it to Mugabe now would represent a big step backward.

Continue reading "Holding Mugabe to Account" »

April 19, 2007


Sudan's Bashir Knows No Bounds
Posted by Jeremy Broussard

A leaked United Nations report claims that Sudan is flying heavy weapons into Darfur, in direct violation of UN Resolution 1556.  To add insult to injury, the Sudanese government has painted these transport aircraft white, giving them the appearance of a UN aircraft to the untrained eye.  Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has done this while simultaneously delayed allowing a larger UN peacekeeping force to accompany the African Union forces ostensibly patrolling Darfur.

President Bush has threatened to tighten the financial sanctions already in place against Sudan, but it's doubtful that much will come of it.  Sitting on a proven reserve of 1.6B bbls of oil, Sudan is just too tempting for some nations with an growing energy demand (read China) to present a unified global front.  In fact, recent arms sales to Sudan only feed the beast and cause further regional instability, especially in neighboring Chad.

Bush also proposed a no-fly zone--a la pre-"liberation" Iraq--to eliminate the air support Bashir's military gives the Janjaweed militia who attack the black Sudanese in Darfur.

Enough is enough.  Over 200,000 Sudanese civilians have been killed in Darfur, twice the number killed in 1994 when NATO intervened in the Bosnia-Herzegovina.  Over 2.3 million have been made refugees, many internally-displaced.  Frankly, the U.S. is not in a position militarily or diplomatically to take direct against against the Bashir government, but our NATO allies should.  More importantly, the African Union should show true leadership and stop one of the worst genocides in Africa from continuing.

As we commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day this week, we must not let the words "never again" be hollow rhetoric. 

December 29, 2006


What Darfur Means for our National Security
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

Apologies for the long gaps on the blog. I'm home in New Mexico for Christmas and finally got to my mom's house in the Four Corners where I astonishingly found a new DSL line.  This is a big deal seeing as the most advanced technology until now is a windmill to pump water for the horses.

The day before Christmas, I drove by a sign from It stated simply "Not on our watch".  It was a poignant reminder of what's going on in the world--and it made me feel awkward on my way to the shopping mall to catch the last minute sales.  The sign also reminded me of three things that recently came across my defense-wonk radar. First, this great article in last week's New Yorker about social science insights gaining ground in the US Government--including the Defense Department. Second, that even the highly resistant Bush Administration is warming up to the idea of a larger Army . And third, that the DoD just released its latest Counter Insurgency Doctrine manual. 

The manual codifies an important lesson of insurgencies: it takes more than the military to win. So what has this all got to do with SaveDarfur? 

Continue reading "What Darfur Means for our National Security" »

May 18, 2006

Africa, State Dept.

Why Bono Should be our Next Secretary of State
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Yes, this post may strike some as random, but it must be said, and I cannot help but say it. U2's Bono should be our next Secretary of State, under, of course, a Democratic administration in 2008. I came to this “conclusion,” when buried in my MP3 collection, I was struck once again by Bono’s remarkable skills as a communicator. In a live version of the classic “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” he breaks off into one of his impassioned mini-speeches:

Let me tell you something…I’ve had enough of Irish Americans who haven’t been back to their country in twenty or thirty years, come up to me and talk about the resistance, the revolution back home. And the glory of the revolution and the glory of dying for the revolution…Fuck the revolution! They don’t talk about the glory of killing for the revolution. What’s the glory in taking a man from his bed and gunning him down in front of his wife and his children? Where’s the glory in that? Where’s the glory in bombing a Remembrance Day parade of old-age pensioners their medals taken out and polished up for the day? Where’s the glory in that? To leave them dying or crippled for life or dead under the rubble of a revolution that the majority of people in my country don’t want…say no more, no more, no more, no more….”

The crowd, tens of thousands strong, screams back in unison. It is one of those rare, cathartic moments in music. Bono’s message here and elsewhere is affecting, powerful, and totally in keeping with America’s founding ideals. A keen regard not only for the dignity of the oppressed but for those who will no doubt be made to suffer in the sullied name of redemption. Joe Klein, to his credit, keeps on talking about the chokehold political consultants have on the Democratic Party and that we need genuine politicians who actually believe in something, who are alive with feeling, emotion, and (within bounds) righteous anger. Ok, then, let’s do this. Why Bono? Here are 7 reasons:

1. He actually does have substantive foreign policy experience, having met with and discussed the intricacies of Western aid to Africa with heads of state and senior-level officials from around the world. Moreover, he has been on the front lines of setting a new Africa agenda for development organizations, including USAID, the World Bank and the IMF.

Continue reading "Why Bono Should be our Next Secretary of State" »

April 02, 2006


Justice for Africa: Charles Taylor in the Dock
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

_39120806_amputee203ap_1 In scenes straight out of a Hollywood action film, last week former Liberian strongman Charles Taylor found himself in a dragnet when the Nigerian government, after years of protecting him, finally announced plans to turn the ex-dictator over to a UN special court to be tried for war crimes and atrocities committed in support of civil war in Sierra Leone.  Within 24 hours Taylor had escaped, and rumor was that he might attempt a coup back in Liberia's capital.  But the Nigerians nabbed him, and Taylor is now in UN custody in Freetown, Sierra Leone on his way to trial.

If things go as planned from now on, Taylor's extradition could become a major step toward justice and accountability in Africa.  Though Chad, Ethiopia, Uganda and many other countries have suffered under brutal and reckless leaders, none of these criminal heads of state has ever been brought to trial.   The U.S. played a constructive role in trying to break the pattern with Taylor, pushing hard on newly elected Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to demand his extradition from Nigeria. 

U.S. and UN pressure, coupled with Johnson-Sirleaf's call, forced Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to depart from a longstanding but deeply destructive policy of unwavering comity among African leaders.  Feeling sidelined and mistreated by the rest of the world, African leaders have sought strength in solidarity and been reluctant to break ranks regardless of how illegitimate, incompetent, or plain evil individual members of the fraternity are.

When Interpol first tried to arrest Taylor at a Summit of East African leaders in 2003, Obasanjo and others balked at the affront to a head of state representing his country at a multinational gathering.  This despite Taylor's role in violating 8 peace accords and 13 ceasefires in his region, and his continued efforts to bedevil attempts to settle a conflict fought by hacking the limbs and gouging the eyes of children.

African leaders found it unseemly that Taylor would be tried as a sitting President by a "not well recognized court" and a "junior legal luminary" (the American prosecutor).  So instead of being held accountable for his crimes, Taylor was granted asylum in Nigeria on condition that he stay out of Liberian affairs and that if a duly elected Liberian government were ever to ask, he would be handed over.  The first condition was never enforced, and Taylor continued to have in-person contacts and financial dealings with Liberian rebels. 

There are rumors that Obasanjo's fealty to Taylor continued even after the Nigerian President agreed to accede to the extradition last week.  The speed with which Nigerian policy recaptured Taylor after his escape raises questions over whether the Nigerian government may have known his whereabouts all along.

But that aside, the reality of Taylor being put in the dock to account for his crimes before a hybrid international and Sierra Leonian court sends the following important messages:

1.  That even a continent with no greater downfall than official corruption and abuse, there is hope for accountability.  The road to Taylor's capture was sufficiently long and tortured that most wayward African despots will still be able to comfort themselves that they aren't important enough to the United States to ever attract the level of attention and pressure put on the Taylor case.   But if well-publicized over the next year or two, Taylor's trial and fate could have some constraining effect.

2.  That the firm fraternity of African leaders, thick enough to mask all manner of misdeeds, has its limits.  There have been a few tentative signs in recent months that African leaders are starting to recognize the folly of protecting their own irrespective of the geopolitical and moral costs.  They kept Sudan from assuming the rotating presidency of the African Union and now, though under duress, have turned in Taylor.  If this trend can gain steam, competent and incorruptible African leaders could one day be the most powerful force the continent has for cracking down on those who are neither.

3.  That the U.S., in spite of everything, can under the right circumstances still be a force for accountability and the rule of law.  We've spent a lot of time at Democracy Arsenal and elsewhere talking about the violence that's been done to America's international legitimacy by dint of our rejection of the International Criminal Court, tolerance for torture, indifference to detainees rights, etc.   A primary reason why all that's so distressing is that its undermined the U.S.'s role as a champion for human rights around the globe, setting back both our influence and the struggle for human rights itself.  The damage is serious, but its neither complete nor irreversible.  Our role in the apprehension and trial of Charles Taylor is a reassuring, though fleeting reminder of the kind of force in the world we can and must again be.

Continue reading "Justice for Africa: Charles Taylor in the Dock" »

February 15, 2006


Is NATO really right for Sudan?
Posted by Jeffrey Laurenti

Progressive-minded Americans can relish the moment.  Kofi Annan went to see George Bush on Monday to tell him—if we may strip away the layers of flowery diplomatic politesse—to put up or shut up.  For two years Washington has been insistently demanding strong action by the United Nations to halt the janjaweed massacres and expulsions in Darfur.   Now that the international will has congealed to send in a U.N. protection force, an administration that has dominated the jawboning needs to do a share of the heavy lifting.

But the notion that NATO should send a force into Sudan is, with due respect to Senator Joe Biden and its other enthusiasts, simply bone-headed.  NATO is already on thin ice in Afghanistan as an alien force in a Muslim sea, but at least the Afghan government in Kabul wants it there.  NATO has even less business going into a civil conflict in Sudan, where a resistant government in Khartoum suspects Western governments really just want to split the country—and many Africans believe it. 

Western military capacities can certainly strengthen the limited reach of the force currently deployed by the threadbare African Union.  But they can’t substitute for it:  Africa’s participation is indispensable (and no one else, from NATO or otherwise, will put up the troops needed on the ground to police so vast an area as Darfur).  And neither Europeans nor Africans have any stomach for becoming a military arm of the Darfur rebels.  Neither do Americans, at least not those outside of Washington.

The obvious framework is a U.N. operation that harnesses both African and Western capacities. Members of NATO can put the same military capacities to work under a U.N. aegis as under NATO’s – but the Africans will not take orders from a Euro-American command and political body in which they have no voice. Of course, Washington is allergic to U.N. operations, and armchair warriors are quick to accuse U.N. leadership of being too reluctant to use military force.  (That’s why we did our own thing in Somalia in 1993.)  But after the recent experience of U.S. military unilateralism, the American public may be grateful for the restraint on reckless “robustness” that global accountability may entail.

We should be careful what we wish for.  Just when the American people have caught on to the folly of military adventurism in Iraq, do “progressives” want to tell them we have another war to involve them in?  Handle with care….   

February 14, 2006


Darfur Needs More Cheek and Less Bush
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Number of troops and/or dollars President Bush committed on Monday to UN peacekeeping mission for Darfur, Sudan, after a request for support from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in an Oval Office meeting: 0.

Number of troops and/or dollars American speedskater Joey Cheek committed to Sudanese relief after winning a $25,000 bonus for his Olympic gold medal:  $25,000.

Ok, Derek brings you the substance and I bring you the guy in tights.    Joey_cheek_jpeg

But this points up both how far Darfur and its horrors have crept into the public consciousness (through the unlikely triumverate of aid groups, evangelicals, and MTV) and how little both the folks in power and the media have responded to those concerns.

So, reasons for optimism:  1) Americans really do care about this one; and 2) Cheek is skating for the kids of Darfur again later this week, and Darfur will get more airtime on NBC thanks to Mr. Cheek than the peace talks and Kofi Annan's pleas combined.

Go, Joey.

Reasons for pessimism:  remember how lambasted the Clinton Administration was for its slow response to Bosnia?  the Bosnian conflict lasted for three years and killed between 100-200,000; in Darfur, we're coming up on three years and 180,000 dead.  Or is that a reason for optimism?  Is three years and six figures our real threshold for genocide?

February 13, 2006


A Darfur Breakthrough?
Posted by Derek Chollet

After failing to utter a syllable about the genocide raging in Darfur during his State of the Union address, President Bush finally spoke out today.  Well, he didn’t really have much of a choice – in the press availability following his meeting with Kofi Annan, it was bound to come up. 

Yet this follows what has been – the President’s silence notwithstanding – a pretty good few weeks by the Administration on this issue.  One of John Bolton’s first moves as this month’s UN Security Council president was to raise Darfur, calling on the Council to authorize planning from the woefully undermanned and underequipped African Union force to a more robust, UN peacekeeping force.  The Council agreed to do this last week, and planning is underway for a UN force that could be as large as 20,000 troops.

Could we be on the cusp of a breakthrough in terms of the international community's actions toward Darfur?  Perhaps.  But even if the days ahead in the UN go smoothly (and that's a big if), the problem is what to do in the meantime – the UN planning process is not exactly speedy, and the African Union troops there are not up to the task.  Their mandate runs out at the end of March.  So we need some kind of “bridging force,” and last week Senator Joe Biden called for NATO to get involved.  This is the right move -- we have been arguing for it for nine months – and one that the Administration must support.  But the truth is that this will only happen if the Administration comes under greater pressure from more than just editorial boards and, ahem, blogs.  It needs to hear from the public and Congress, and groups like Stop Genocide Now are working on it -- and need our help.

Beyond NATO, there’s so much more the President could do.  Nicholas Kristof, who has perhaps done more than any other journalist to raise awareness on Darfur's plight, offered a series of practical and completely doable steps in his NY Times column over the weekend (notice also that he raises a good point about the prospect of American military troops on the ground there, which is something that Biden is open to).

Continue reading "A Darfur Breakthrough?" »

Sign-up to receive a weekly digest of the latest posts from Democracy Arsenal.

www Democracy Arsenal
Powered by TypePad


The opinions voiced on Democracy Arsenal are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of any other organization or institution with which any author may be affiliated.
Read Terms of Use