UN Peacekeeping Mission in Darfur Failing?

A couple of weeks ago we watched the National Film Board of Canada documentary film, The Peacekeepers, in introduction to IR.   It was a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the enterprise of UN peacekeeping operations, demonstrating the successes and failures of the UN in attempting to create and keep the pace amongst Congo’s warring factions.  We saw the clash between realist views of international sovereignty, security, and power and the liberal ideal of multinational cooperation.  The New York Times reports today on the potential failure of a relatively new UN peacekeeping operation before it has even started.  Those who have been following the atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan know that it has taken four years to get a UN peacekeeping force on the ground.  It may already be doomed to failure.  It is uncanny how much of this report sounds like it was taken directly from the documentary about Sudan.

un_darfur.jpg ABU SUROUJ, Sudan — As Darfur smolders in the aftermath of a new government offensive, a long-sought peacekeeping force, expected to be the world’s largest, is in danger of failing even as it begins its mission because of bureaucratic delays, stonewalling by Sudan’s government and reluctance from troop-contributing countries to send peacekeeping forces into an active conflict.

The force, a joint mission of the African Union and the United Nations, officially took over from an overstretched and exhausted African Union force in Darfur on Jan. 1. It now has just over 9,000 of an expected 26,000 soldiers and police officers and will not fully deploy until the end of the year, United Nations officials said.

Even the troops that are in place, the old African Union force and two new battalions, lack essential equipment, like sufficient armored personnel carriers and helicopters, to carry out even the most rudimentary of peacekeeping tasks. Some even had to buy their own paint to turn their green helmets United Nations blue, peacekeepers here said.

The peacekeepers’ work is more essential than ever. At least 30,000 people were displaced last month as the government and its allied militias fought to retake territory held by rebel groups fighting in the region, according to United Nations human rights officials.

Ethnic Conflict and Strife

A couple of days ago all blog posts seemed to be related to the theme “the social logic of politics”. Today, there seems to be a surge in episodes of inter-ethnic conflict worldwide. First, we learn from the Washington Post, that there is unrest and violence in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, where a week of increasing confrontations between native Tibetans and the Chinese government have turned violent, with native Tibetans battling with Chinese police and troops and also attacking ethnic Han Chinese, which is either unprecedented or extremely rare.

BEIJING, March 14 — A week of tense confrontations over Chinese rule in Tibet erupted in violence Friday, as hundreds of protesters clashed with police and set fire to shops in the center of Lhasa. Doctors reported dozens of wounded streaming into area hospitals, and one witness said the downtown area was “in a state of siege.”

The rare breakout of violence, the worst in 20 years in the capital city of a remote mountainous region that is the heart of Tibetan Buddhism, posed a challenge to the Chinese government as it prepares to host the 2008 Olympic Games in August. Seeking to make the Games a worldwide celebration of its swift economic progress during the past three decades, the Chinese government has steadfastly attempted to project an image of harmony and stability, even while tightening its grip over the restive region.

“This spiraling unrest has triggered the scenario the Chinese prayed would not happen,” said Robbie Barnett, director of modern Tibetan studies at Columbia University. “Now we’re just watching the clock tick until people get off the street or the Chinese open fire.”

In a different part of the world, Malaysia, in which once again ethnic Chinese are involved, the New York Times reports on post-electoral tension on the island of Penang:

PENANG, Malaysia — Chanting “Long Live the Malays!” several hundred members of Malaysia’s largest ethnic group gathered Friday on this largely Chinese island, defying a police ban on protests and raising communal tensions after sharp electoral losses by the country’s governing party.

Newly elected state governments have moved rapidly to abolish some of the long-held privileges of ethnic Malays. Those efforts have challenged the core of Malaysia’s ethnic-based political system and inflamed the sensibilities of Malays. Until the March 8 elections, Malays thoroughly dominated politics through the country’s largest party, the United Malays National Organization, known by its initials, U.M.N.O.

The opposition parties that beat U.M.N.O. and its partners in five states say affirmative action should be based on need rather than ethnicity. But the opposition, too, is struggling to contain fissures along ethnic lines as a Chinese opposition party competes with its Malay counterpart.

“We’re living in very sensitive times,” said Tricia Yeoh, director of the Center for Public Policy Studies, an independent research center in Kuala Lumpur, the capital.

The affirmative action program favoring the Malays has been in place for more than three and a half decades and gives Malays everything from discounts on new houses to 30 percent quotas in initial public offerings of companies. It is known as the New Economic Policy.

Finally, in Iraq, where in the last four years the minority Christian community has been decimated, either through targeted killings or ethnic cleansing, we hear news of the killing of a prominent Catholic Bishop:

bishop_rahro.jpg BAGHDAD, March 13 — The body of a senior Christian cleric was found Thursday in the northern city of Mosul, two weeks after gunmen abducted him there and killed three of his associates.

The death of Paulos Faraj Rahho, 65, archbishop of Mosul’s Chaldean community, prompted expressions of remorse and condemnation from the Iraqi government and Christian leaders.

Pope Benedict XVI, in a message to the Chaldean patriarch in Iraq, called the killing an “act of inhuman violence that offends the dignity of the human person and seriously harms the cause of fraternal coexistence among the beloved Iraqi people.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said it was a crime of “aggression aimed at inciting sedition among” Iraqis.

The United Nations and Peacekeeping in Congo

In PLSC250–intro to IR–this week we viewed a documentary made by the National Film Board of Canada, which addresses the UN’s peacekeeping role in Congo. After reading Chapter 7 of Mingst, you should now be aware that the UN in the world’s most important and powerful IGO, and the UN Security Council plays the most prominent global role in the area of international security. Here are a couple of screen shots from the film and the film’s description:

peacekeepers_1.jpg

peacekeepers_2.jpg

With unprecedented access to the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping, The Peacekeepers provides an intimate and dramatic portrait of the struggle to save “a failed state.” The film follows the determined and often desperate manoeuvres to avert another Rwandan disaster, this time in the Democratic Republic of Congo (the DRC).
Focusing on the UN mission, the film cuts back and forth between the United Nations headquarters in New York and events on the ground in the DRC. We are with the peacekeepers in the ‘Crisis Room’ as they balance the risk of loss of life on the ground with the enormous sums of money required from uncertain donor countries. We are with UN troops as the northeast Congo erupts and the future of the DRC, if not all of central Africa, hangs in the balance.
In the background, but often impinging on peacekeeping decisions, are the painful memory of Rwanda, the worsening crisis in Iraq, global terrorism and American hegemony in world affairs. As Secretary General Kofi Annan tells the General Assembly at the conclusion of The Peacekeepers: “History is a harsh judge. The world will not forgive us if we do nothing.” Whether the world’s peacekeeper did enough remains to be seen.

Partition as a Solution to Ethnic Conflict/Violence

Today in class we discussed ethnic identity and various types of inter-ethnic violence. We saw that a large literature in political science (and related disciplines) sees the very fact of cultural (and especially ethnic) heterogeneity is being the source of much that goes wrong within states and societies. In a previous post, I mentioned Robert Putnam’s recent findings that trust is lower in more heterogeneous societies; there is a burgeoning literature on the deleterious economic impact of ethnic (and other forms of) identity (public goods provision, for example, is lower in more heterogeneous societies).

If the very fact of heterogeneity is the cause of conflict and violence, then wouldn’t a reasonable solution to inter-ethnic conflict/violence be to create new more ethnically homogeneous states out of a single ethnically diverse one? Some argue that this may be a legitimate solution to the extant difficulties in Iraq. Chaim Kaufmann has argued in favor of just this approach. Here (pdf) is an article written by Nicholas Sambanis setting out, then critiquing Chaim Kaufmann’s hypotheses regarding the usefulness of partition to resolve endemic inter-ethnic violence.

You can view a fascinating BBC documentary on the partition of India in 1947 here. Here’s an important quote from the documentary:

“…as a British barrister draws a line on a map…”

Much of the violence that occurred during the partition was the result of Muslims and Hindus (of course, the Sikh/Punjab problem adds another layer of complexity altogether) trying to be on (or being forced to move to) the right side of that barrister’s line. Millions were killed.