Darfur, an area the size of France, had gripped the world when a civil war broke in 2003 and lasted for three years claiming the lives of an estimated 300, 000 Darfuris and 2.7 million Drfuries internally displaced.
It’s a complicated civil war with complicated players involved, and any peace mediation efforts had to involve a complex web of players with countries like Chad, Uganda and South Sudan taking their own share of the blame.
Be that as it may, Darfur is no longer the nightmare the world woke up to in 2003.
Many things have changed since the first deployment in 2006 of the African Union Peacekeeping mission, which was replaced by UNAMID, a hybrid of UN-AUC peacekeeping mission in 2008. Fighting has died down since 2006 and the fatalities are often numbered.
But Darfur remains insecure. Last week two peacekeepers of the UNAMID were shot and wounded near the town of El Dein after being targeted by an unknown armed militia. A little earlier a 55-person peacekeeping patrol of the UNAMID was blockaded in northwestern Darfur by armed rebels, a standoff that lasted for two days before the convoy was freed. That is a result of armed men in disarray.
After the ineffective Darfur Pace Agreement signed in 2006 in Abuja, Nigeria, a second, more promising peace deal, the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) has been signed in July 2011.
One of the milestones in this document is the creation of a committee – inclusive of countries from around the world – tasked to follow up progresses made and make recommendations on the peace accord. (Please see story on p. 9-12). This is a rare chance of having the international community united to see a politically stable and economically thriving Darfur in the making.
Hosting 26, 000 peacekeeping personnel on the ground, Darfur should have already been a land of peace and tranquility. Unfortunately brining Darfur back to its feet takes more than the deployment of military personnel, although that too is essential. There is no better way to go about it than the current promising start.
The government of the Sudan and the rebels hold the key to bring in a lasting peace, but the international community must help both use it gently. The timing to do just that is ripe, when the supper committee is still intact.