- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 26, 2005

Thursday’s decision by the U.N. Security Council to deploy a robust force to Sudan is a step in the right direction, but remains a woefully inadequate response to the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. The council must now choose from a menu of better but flawed options.

The council unanimously passed a resolution introduced by the United States to deploy 10,000 peacekeepers and 715 civilian police officers to Sudan’s southern region to reinforce a peace agreement reached in January. It brings to an end one of the world’s most protracted and horrific conflicts.

The council’s move, though, really does nothing to address the ongoing, and therefore more urgent, conflict in Sudan’s western region of Darfur. While a new power-sharing government in Sudan will be better equipped to negotiate a future settlement with Darfur rebels, the killing in Darfur continues. A large peacekeeping force is needed to put out the genocidal fire that still rages there and has made almost 2 million people homeless and killed about 300,000. Darfur refugees continue to be robbed and violently attacked every day by marauding militias, known as the Janjaweed.

An African Union force of about 2,000 soldiers and monitors is stretched much too thin to put an end to the attacks on civilians and aid workers. This week, an U.S. Agency for International Development worker was shot in the face in Darfur during an ambush of a humanitarian convoy. AU officials need to either bolster their troop presence or acknowledge that they have not been able to supply the necessary troops. That would open the way for the council to approve a peacekeeping force for Darfur.

First, though, the council must be willing to put the necessary pressure on Khartoum to allow peacekeepers into Darfur. Algeria, China and Russia are reticent to apply that kind of pressure, and the people of Darfur are suffering as a result. The international community should also be putting pressure on Darfur rebels to come to an agreement with Khartoum.

A report released on Thursday regarding the widespread sexual abuses by U.N. peacekeepers around the world highlights the potential pitfalls of U.N. troop deployments. But in Darfur, such a deployment, combined with a stronger will at the U.N. Security Council to hold Khartoum accountable, remains the most promising option for bringing some level of peace.

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