William Hague: Darfur’s Children Deserve Our Protection

“[T]he decision by the government of Sudan to bar UN relief co-ordinator Jan Egeland from Darfur is as perverse as it is deplorable. It is not, however, atypical. The government appears to pursue a systematic policy of making life difficult for the NGOs and international organisations working to help the people of Darfur. Visa applications for humanitarian workers take weeks to process. Access to essential fuel is limited. Movement between regions is impeded. The obstruction and harassment is subtle but insidious and seriously affects the ability of the aid agencies to do their job…. The deployment of the African Union force in 2004 left the task of protecting the civilians of a region the size of France to 7,000 peacekeepers who are seriously underequipped and overstretched and who lack the mandate to do anything other than monitor the country’s tenuous ceasefire. So the people of Darfur have been caught in limbo between warring factions not interested in peace, a government wishing to ward off foreign involvement and an international community hoping for the best.

The people I spoke to in the camps will not return to their homes until the arrival of an international force with the mandate, capacity and political will to keep the peace. The only practical way to guarantee this is through the UN. The African Union has made a reasonable start, but it lacks expertise and experience.

It should be transformed as soon as possible into a UN-led operation with a beefed-up Chapter Six mandate, backed by extensive logistical help, including air support as necessary, from Nato.” [More]