Author Archives: John Boonstra
In other pirate-related news, the end of the monsoon season could result in an increase in size and scope of attacks in the Gulf of Aden.
And while the UN’s head in Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, takes to the Washington Post op-ed page to plea for international support for the embattled Somali government, its opposition, the radical al-Shabab militant group, plays the opposite message, “expelling” three UN agencies from Somalia. I’m all for greater international engagement, but this is exactly why we cannot have the UN caught in the middle.
A brief description of the Secretary-General’s most recent report on Darfur alleges that cooperation between the Sudanese government and the UN peacekeeping force “has improved.” This is true, but considering the low baseline of Sudan’s “cooperation,” it is unfortunately not altogether helpful. As the S-G’s report itself observes, before sounding that somewhat optimistic note:
It is also important to acknowledge that there continue to be instances where Khartoum-based decisions to support UNAMID work are not implemented locally. This relates especially to freedom of movement for UNAMID personnel and customs clearances to allow equipment into the Sudan.
Official government cooperation has never been the problem. Khartoum has typically stated — when not making outlandish threats, that is — that Sudan would comply with the UN Security Council resolution establishing UNAMID, and would work alongside the force to bring peace and stability to Darfur. The problem has long lay in the implementation of this compliance on the ground. And to read that this is still flagging is discouraging indeed.
(image from UN Photo)
Those sanctions that were tightening (ahead of schedule) on North Korea — they are tight indeed. The asset freezes and travel bans hit the officials and companies most directly responsible for the country’s nuclear program. Pyongyang won’t react well verbally, to be sure, but they have to be feeling this one in their pocketbooks.
Eh, who’s counting anyway? Not the WHO any more (h/t Passport). But before your flabbergasted reaction — the World Health Organization is not tracking the number of cases of a disease it has called a pandemic?!? — consider that this is actually a sensible step.
On the one hand, unfortunately, it’s only practical to stop counting; new cases are popping up all over, and, with different countries’ reporting standards, keeping track would essentially be a fool’s errand. On the other, the number of cases is a much less significant fact than HOW the virus is spreading, and how it is being treated. These, of course, the WHO continues to track rigorously.
There are many cases of swine flu; we know this, and we’ll still have a good enough estimate of the number as it grows. But counting the global caseload can lead to a feverish panic over an ever-increasing number. I’d much rather the WHO focus on how to decrease this number.
From a good article in Macleans, the Canadian weekly:
“It comes down to this question: can we intervene without doing harm?” says Brownwyn E. Bruton, an international affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “If you want to deal with it properly, you’re looking at an Iraq-style investment, where 20,000 peacekeepers isn’t going to do it—maybe 40,000, maybe 60,000. You’re talking about building a government and security forces from the ground up. It’s going to be a 10-year effort. And there’s going to be a lot of violence in the short term, as there was in Iraq.” [emphasis mine]
And that, in case the bolded parts don’t make it clear enough, just ain’t gonna happen. The article also makes the very valid point that such a force, wherever it came from, would require a substantial contribution from the United States. And even though the U.S. did recently contribute 168 million very important dollars to the African Union mission in Somalia, a 10-year investment in 60,000 troops would cost, um, a little bit more.
So where to look? The UN?
Ahmed Abdisalam Adan, a former resident of Ottawa and deputy prime minister of Somalia until Sheik Sharif Ahmed’s government was sworn in this year, hopes that the international community will shoulder this burden. In an interview with Maclean’s, he drew comparisons between Somalia and Afghanistan and argued that the international response should be similar. He wants the United Nations to send troops. While some Somalis would reject any international presence, Adan believes most would accept it as necessary. “Somalis are killing each other every day here on the streets, so why wouldn’t they accept anyone who is coming to save them?”
We’ve previously argued why a UN peacekeeping mission in Somalia would not be a good idea, and the situation remains such that UN deployment would be much more likely to inflame tensions and exacerbate conditions on the ground than to achieve any sort of forced pacification. Adan’s logic is misguided (there are in fact no UN peacekeepers, only a small political team, in Afghanistan, his proposed parallel case), but his language is revealing: any UN blue helmets that might deploy in Somalia could not be there to “save” Somalis. Peacekeeping missions, even the ones with mandates to protect civilians, are not rescue missions. That requires a whole different (and more substantial) investment, one that, given Somalia’s history, is not likely to be forthcoming.
Does this mean there is no way for the international community to help improve the situation in Somalia? No, but it does mean that we should be candid about what full-scale protection of Somali civilians will entail. We can keep supporting the country’s government, conducting anti-terrorism operations, promoting peace processes, and providing vital humanitarian aid, but if we want to talk about making sure that everyday Somali civilians are safe, we’d need to be honest about what that’s going to take.
Sudanese President Bashir, who’d previously shown few qualms in provocatively traipsing across Africa after his indictment by the ICC, visiting allies that he knew were non-signatories to the Court, has recently backed off a planned trip to neighboring Uganda. Why? Well, Kampala hasn’t exactly been clear on the matter, but it seems that even the faintest threat of being arrested (Uganda has ratified the ICC’s Rome Statute) was enough to dissuade Bashir from the chance of looking foolish — and of ending up in the dock in The Hague.
This isn’t surefire proof that the ICC warrant is “working,” of course. Bashir remains pretty safely ensconced in power — at least as long as he remains in Sudan. But this is exactly the point of the of the warrant, to constrain Bashir in his movement. Whether it will actually result in his eventual arrest — or, even better, a viable peace settlement in the country — is far from clear, but if Uganda is willing to arrest send mixed signals about arresting Bashir, well, then that’s a step at least.
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.