One day after tens of thousands of activists gathered in New
York City to demand the immediate deployment of UN peacekeepers to Darfur,
President Bush named Andrew Natsios as Special Envoy to Sudan. This promising development, however,
takes place against the backdrop of a rapidly deteriorating situation in
Earlier this week, the Government of Sudan (GoS) renewed its
offensive attack in North Darfur leaving devastation in its wake. The UN reported that up to 355,000
Darfuris are stranded without access to humanitarian assistance—including food
aid. As attacks continue and the
humanitarian situation worsens, time is running out. Although the African Union (AU) extended its mandate in
Sudan until the end of the year, it remains severely underfinanced and
understaffed. Considering these
logistical constraints, the AU cannot fully protect the people of Darfur in the
midst of offensive violence.
The responsibility to protect the people of Darfur lies in
the hands of the Government of Sudan.
Thus far, the Government has failed to uphold its obligation to its
people and the UN (under Security Council Resolution 1647) to protect the
Sudanese in Darfur. International
intervention—through the AU and/or the UN—in Sudan is not sustainable. Thus, the international community must
call upon the GoS to uphold its responsibility as a member of the UN to provide
protection for civilians in Darfur.
Only when the GoS can foster an environment of protection in Darfur will
a lasting peaceful resolution of this conflict be possible.
While the appointment of a Special Envoy is a necessary step
in this direction, it is not a sufficient one. The U.S. must use its influence within the Sudanese
Government to demand that an environment of protection is created in
Darfur. If the GoS is unwilling or
unable to uphold its responsibility to protect—which it has indicated
throughout the course of the three-year conflict in Darfur—then the
responsibility falls on the international community. The Special Envoy to Sudan must determine the future course
of international intervention in Darfur under the community’s responsibility to
protect, but they must do so immediately because for the people of Darfur, time
is running out.