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Final Word on Somalia

To clear up any misconceptions, the United Nations–as a rule–does not send peacekeepers to places where there is no peace to keep. Somalia today certainly falls into this category.

Peacekeepers are trained to keep the peace, not mount invasions. Furthermore, the Secretary General does not have any standing forces at his disposal. When the Security Council approves a peacekeeping mission, the Secretary General must rely on member states to pony up troops and equipment. To complicate matters, member states are generally reluctant to offer their troops for a peacekeeping mission that has no ceasefire or political agreement to uphold (see: Sudan, Darfur).

The Security Council can, however, approve the kind of mission that Alex Thurston considers necessary to save Somalia.The defense of Kuwait in 1990 and Australia’s interventions in in East Timor, for example, were authorized by the Security Council. However, these are not “UN peacekeeping missions,” but essentially war-fighting efforts led by individual member states. For humanitarian intervention to occur in Somalia tomorrow, an individual country, NATO, or some coalition of the willing would have to take on the project themselves. Presumably, this would include evicting Ethiopian troops, suppressing an insurgency and defeating spoilers. So far, no country seems willing to take this on, so the next best option is to work to secure a political agreement between as many factions as possible and then use UN peacekeepers as the guarantors of that peace. The newest Secretary General’s report on Somalia, linked here, recommends this path–and I suspect the Security Council will approve.

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Still Debating Peace and Justice in Northern Uganda

Last week, Mark and I both expressed our opinions of the controversy in Northern Uganda, where a proximate peace accord is being stalled by rebel leader Joseph Kony’s insistence on immunity from ICC prosecution. Though there are no new developments in the stalemate, I wanted to share the well-reasoned opinion of Kevin Jon Heller, a blogger at the peerless Opinio Juris. Rejecting his colleague Julian Ku’s assertion that “the ICC really is now the obstacle to peace,” Kevin gives his take on how to navigate out of this morass.

It seems to me that the answer lies in the ICC’s principle of complementarity. Given that ordinary Ugandans favor traditional justice for low-level perpetrators and criminal prosecution for high-level perpetrators, the Court should insist on two things: (1) that the Ugandan government and the LRA revert back to their original plan to try Kony and the other LRA leaders in Uganda’s High Court; and (2) that the Ugandan government revamp its criminal justice system to satisfy the principle of complementarity. At that point — and only at that point — should the ICC step aside.

The key, of course, is to reconcile Ugandans’ belief in the need to prosecute high-level LRA criminals with the deficiencies of the Ugandan justice system. While simply dropping its indictments would be devastating, the ICC could opt for a tactical delay, accepting a less-than-ideal solution in immediate term, but retaining the prerogative to bring Kony et al to justice at least eventually. This would both provide a viable option for the ICC and, as Kevin pointed out to me, give Uganda an opportunity to bring its courts up to the legal standards of the ICC.

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UN targets Sudanese army for mass rapes in Darfur

The United Nations has called out the Sudanese government for committing mass rapes of women and girls in Darfur in a new report released today.

The UN high commissioner for human rights, Louise Arbour, released the report stating that President Omar al-Bashir’s administration is providing help and support to the Arab janjaweed militia, who are responsible for looting at least three towns, raping girls and women and killing at least 115 people last month. Over 30,000 people have been displaced as a result as well. Via the UN’s News Centre:

The report describes extensive looting during and after the attacks, and catalogues ‘consistent and credible accounts’ of rape committed by armed men in uniform.

‘These actions violated the principle of distinction stated in international humanitarian law, failing to distinguish between civilian objects and military objective,’ the report concludes.

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Peacekeepers in Somalia Weren’t Always an Option

Piggybacking on Mark’s response to Alex Thurston’s disagreement with Ban’s report on Somalia, there are a couple of things we must keep in mind.

First, the Secretary-General’s suggestion of possibly deploying peacekeepers in Somalia (eventually, at least) was not always his idea. As Edith Lederer of the AP reminds us, Ban has previously actually resisted pressure to push for a peacekeeping force.

In December, the Security Council called on Ban to plan for the possible deployment of U.N. peacekeepers to replace the African Union force now in Somalia. The council was reiterating a request it initially made in August that Ban rejected.

Compare Ban’s most recent report to the one he gave in November. From Reuters:

“Under the prevailing political and security situation, I believe that the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping operation cannot be considered a realistic and viable option,” Ban said in a report to the Security Council.

Ban’s latest report is not simply a clarion call for another mission for over-stretched UN peacekeepers. Rather, by assessing the prevailing political, security, and humanitarian conditions, Ban is cautiously laying out the process by which blue helmets could most reasonably and effectively be deployed. This would not only result in a more effective mission, but would also alleviate the pragmatic problem of securing troops from Member States.

Second, it’s not that the additional 17,000-odd troops for Darfur haven’t been found; it’s that the Sudanese government has not accepted the pledges of non-African countries. Stronger efforts are needed to overcome Sudan’s objections and actually deploy these troops, yes, but the offers of troop-contributing countries have been welcome.

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It’s Easier to Find Peacekeepers When There is a Peace to Keep

The Agonists’ Alex Thurston is apoplectic that Ban even suggested a peacekeeping force of 27,000 for Somalia.

27,000, huh Ban? Now look, I want to see stability in Somalia too. But don’t you think you should be concentrating on finding the 17,000 peacekeepers the force in Darfur is waiting for, rather than hinting at new commitments? I have qualified support for the UN, but that doesn’t mean I can’t criticize the General Secretary when he says things that simply don’t make sense. In fact, I’m going to criticize the UN hardest when they fall flat on rhetoric, because rhetoric is the main tool in their arsenal at this point. So don’t even mention troop numbers you have no hope of getting.

True, the UN is having difficulty securing the right troops and equipment for the Darfur mission. The thing is, if you read the recently released report on Somalia from which the 27,000 is drawn, it’s clear that Ban is certainly not calling for a peacekeeping force anytime soon. Rather, as envisioned by the report (which the Security Council is to discuss today) before peacekeepers can even be considered, other hurdles must first be crossed. For example, the security situation would have to permit the UN to move its Somalia headquarters into Somalia. Then, at least 70% of the factions would have to sign onto a cease-fire. Following that, a broad-based political agreement would have to be forged. Only after these conditions have been met does the Secretary General contemplate a peacekeeping force for Somalia.

This is a reasonable and cautious way forward. Member states are likely to be more forthcoming with troop contributions should there be a viable political process to uphold. On the other hand, the problem with generating troops for Darfur is in part due to the fact that there is no peace to keep.

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Thursday Morning Coffee

Top Stories

>>Iraq – A law that would pave the way for provincial elections has been allowed to proceed by Iraq’s Presidency Council, possibly opening a new door to political progress. The law was originally part of a trifecta, including the 2008 budget and an amnesty bill, passed on February 14 and originally seen as a major breakthrough by U.S. leadership. The Presidency Council had since held back its enactment amid objections from Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, a Shi’ite, that the law would allow the central government to dissolve provincial governments.

>>Kosovo – Croatia, Hungary, and Bulgaria have announced that they will officially recognize Kosovo, bringing the total to over 30. Macedonia is also posed to do the same, but a minor border dispute with Kosovo is still outstanding. Kosovo, bound by international commitments to concede the mere 8 square miles in question, has said that it wants recognition first before deciding on the boundary.

>>Osama bin Laden – Last night, Osama bin Laden released a five-minute audio message treatening the EU over the publication of cartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammad, a “crusade” in which bin Laden claims the Pope is involved. This message, coinciding with what is celebrated as the birthday of the Prophet, was bin Laden’s first since 29 November 2007. The cartoons were first published two years ago by Danish daily Jyllands-Posten and then reprinted by other papers . Danish newspapers again reprinted the cartoon on 13 February 2008, after three men were arrested in a plot to kill the cartoonist.

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