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Peacekeeping II

Harmful diversity

by Tillmann Elliesen

In brief

AU peacekeeper in Darfur

AU peacekeeper in Darfur

The United Nations does not expect the Darfur peacekeeping mission to start on time in January. Recent research shows that conditions crucial to the success of the mission are not met.

The deployment of the 26,000-strong peacekeeping force in the Darfur crisis region of Sudan may have to be aborted because the Khartoum government keeps setting new conditions. That was the prospect raised by the UN Undersecretary for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno, speaking at the end of November. The Sudanese government opposes the deployment of non-African troops and is refusing to guarantee the peacekeepers full freedom of movement. Some of the government's proposals for the status of the force, Guéhenno says, “would make it impossible for the mission to operate”.

But that is not all that bodes ill for the Darfur mission. According to a recent study by the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA), a peace agreement accepted by all conflict parties as well as demobilisation of fighters are crucial requirements for the success of a peacekeeping intervention. Neither requirement is met in Darfur. The Abuja peace deal in May 2006 was rejected by all the rebel groups except one and actually made the situation even worse. And demobilisation in Darfur is certainly not on the cards.

The author of the study, Daniel Lambach, looks at seven post-conflict countries, including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Kosovo, Liberia and Mozambique, and seeks to identify the conditions required to enable a foreign intervention force to help improve security. According to Lambach, post-conflict effort needs to be focused on breaking prevailing “oligopolies of violence” and replacing them by a “security market leader”, i.e. a dominant force, or even by a monopoly of violence. Where responsibility for security is claimed by diverse forces – as in Afghanistan, for example – the result is often the opposite: less security, more violence. If a dominant force or monopoly of violence is successfully established in a post-conflict situation – e.g. as in Liberia or Mozambique – there is normally a sharp decrease in violence. However, the converse is also often argued in the context of Afghanistan – that it would be smarter to come to an arrangement with the country's local rulers and informal authorities than to insist on establishing a monopoly of violence for central government.

In many post-conflict countries, international peacekeeping forces temporarily have the monopoly of violence. For this, Lambach says, they need to be sufficiently strong and to have an appropriate mandate – which, according to the BBC, is precisely what diplomats in the UN Security Council believe the Sudanese government is trying to prevent in Darfur. Sudan’s ambassador to the UN, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad, rejected this criticism: Whenever the United Nations has problems, he said in early December, it puts the blame on Sudan.

Lambach calls for post-conflict phases to be perceived not only as transitory stages between war and peace but as “distinctive spaces that follow their own logic”. Understanding the special challenges of post-conflict situations, he says, could produce insights with a direct relevance for policy. It would be wrong, for instance, to provide development aid on a large scale in the immediate aftermath of a violent conflict and then reduce it in stages as stability improves. This is because institutions are often still far too weak in a post-conflict situation to absorb and make effective use of large financial inflows. A good example of this is again Afghanistan.

The study also finds that peacekeeping missions are often too short and geared to overly ambitious goals. “‘Good governance’ is simply not feasible in countries shattered by internal war; ‘good enough governance’ would be a much more realistic goal.” (ell)