18 September 2006

More grand but futile statements

It was only nine days ago that we wrote about grand but futile statements in relation to Darfur. Somewhat to our surprise, though, it seems Tony Blair does not read our blog, although perhaps he should. It would have saved him from making yet another er… grand but futile statement.

This one is in a letter to his 24 European Union "colleagues", telling them that he knows "…we are all determined to ensure that the international community does not fail to protect our fellow human beings facing slaughter," adding, "I am committed to do everything I can on this."

Doing everything he can is, in the real world, everything short of doing something effective. Such is the situation that Sudan president Omar al-Bashir has refused the deployment of UN troops, to take over when the mandate for the African Union peacekeeping force expires next month and, without his permission, the UN will not happen. China, amongst others, will make sure of that.

Thus, while president Bush is angry that "the United Nations hasn't acted" and wants to see a more robust effort, nothing is going to happen unless either the United States or some other country takes the lead with another "coalition of the willing".

Traditionally – with the disastrous exception of Somalia – the US avoids Africa, regarding it as a European sphere of interest, which leaves either France or Great Britain to take the lead. France will not – and possibly cannot – and Great Britain certainly cannot. When it comes to military assets, the cupboard is not only bare, the varnish has been stripped.

That, of course, leaves the "soft power" European Union – essentially the same group of countries that cavilled over sending an additional troops to Afghanistan and agonised over sending a mere 1,200 to the DRC.

The chances of the EU getting its act together and mobilising a sizeable body of troops to enter Sudan by force, therefore, is precisely nil. Effectively recognising that, all Blair is asking is that the EU should Eplay a central role in mobilising world opinion". He also wants the EU "strongly" to call upon government of Sudan and non-signatories to the cease-fire alike to stop immediately the violence in northern Darfur.

However, president Omar al-Bashir, having seen off the United Nations, is hardly likely to be impressed by the EU's calls and declamations so, as The Times remarks this morning, even the Sudanese first vice-president has forecast that further atrocities are inevitable.

So it was that yesterday, peace activists around the world staged a day of action to highlight the "forgotten war". In New York, an estimated 20,000 gathered in Central Park to demand that the U.S. government pressure the Sudanese to stop the killings. "The world must act and it must do so now because time is not on our side," former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright said.

A similar demonstration was held in London, with Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders delivering a plea and saying prayers outside No. 10, while another demonstration, this time in Khartoum (above right), marched on UN offices to oppose the deployment of peacekeepers.

It seems though that they have nothing to fear. While our leaders wring their hands and content themselves with grand but futile statements, the shadow of the 1994 Rwandan massacre looms large. In a grown-up world, we would be mobilising to stop genocide in Darfur.

It isn't going to happen.