Sudan is left with a stark option

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 August, 2007, 12:00am

Compromise was an essential ingredient of the latest UN resolution on the Darfur region of Sudan and it is certainly apparent: the 26,000 peacekeepers have a strict mandate, there is not a mention of sanctions and the wording is diplomatic in the extreme. As watered-down as the deal may be, though, it is the best hope yet to help bring about peace.

China was an essential partner in convincing the Sudanese government of the necessity of the deployment. Beijing's leverage through its involvement in the nation's oil industry made it ideal for the role; success augers well for China's increasing emergence on the international stage as a peacemaker.

But the sending of an international force into Darfur is not in itself a solution to the four years of violence. This can only be reached through a comprehensive peace deal among all involved parties.

A starting point for that process begins in Tanzania in the coming days. When negotiators from the UN, African Union, Sudanese government and rebel groups meet, they must be determined to work for negotiations and, ultimately, a peace agreement.

While such a process takes shape, it will ensure that the killings and rape of black Africans by the mostly Arab aggressors has to stop. The 7,000 African Union peacekeepers deployed in the area have been unable to achieve this, so their integration with a larger, international, force with a stronger mandate is a welcome move.

The role of the new force is to provide protection; it cannot take proactive measures to seize weapons, being only able to step in when violence breaks out. Months will yet pass to assemble so many peacekeepers, and even though the force will be the UN's biggest such operation, it cannot effectively police so vast an area.

The challenges aside, aid workers will at least be able to distribute food and medicine with greater confidence. Darfur's people have been shown that the world genuinely wants to end their plight.

But perhaps most importantly, the government of Sudan has been given a stark option: to either work for an end to the genocide taking place within its borders, or face multilateral measures if it fails to comply.