Water Wars

In the spirit of the Copenhagen climate negotiations I thought it would be appropriate to discuss Darfur in the context of climate change. Darfur is perhaps the first armed conflict sparked by environmental erosion –particularly drought- and judging by the severity of the fighting it is rather disturbing to imagine how resource conflicts between major armed powers (for example, competition for water between Pakistan, India and China) might unfold in the near future. Indeed, professional militaries around the world have already commissioned studies into the potential for climate change-induced warfare. For these reasons Darfur is more than another example of civil war, of which it is not even the latest, but a dark omen for a future that may well materialize around the world if the Copenhagen talks fail to decisively address climate change.

Darfur activists have been accused of ignoring the environmental roots of the conflict, arguing that such attention absolves the Sudanese government of any wrong-doing despite its brutal military response to the region’s suffering. However, it is critical that we recognize desertification as the crucial element of the conflict’s outbreak, and acknowledge that without an alternative source of water no lasting peace can be sustained in the region.

In recent years climate scientists have plugged historical records of sea-surface temperatures into atmospheric computer models and concluded that African monsoons will decline still further, leaving the continent with less water. As the Sahara desert maintains its relentless march southward nomadic herders from northern Darfur are becoming increasingly dependent on the more plentiful water supplies of southern farmers. Where historically cultivated water agreements once governed the peaceful distribution of the precious resource, northern arrivals are now finding themselves forced to pay for access to wells. With a 40 percent decline in annual rainfall over the past 25-30 years, sedentary farmers feel obligated to guard their water against outsiders.

The competition for water does not end in Darfur, however, but reaches across the border into Chad where countless refugees queue up every day for miserable rations of water from humanitarian agencies. Water is no more plentiful in Chad than it is in Darfur with Lake Chad, that great inland sea that once sustained twenty million people in west-central Africa, losing 90 percent of its surface area over the past three decades. With Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger heavily dependent on the fast disappearing reservoir, a far broader conflict threatens to erupt on the very doorstep of Darfur.

Underground reservoirs may offer an alternative, though temporary, source of water. A more permanent supply of water may be provided by artificial catchment basins, a system that is simple enough to be built at the community level and therefore easier to repair and maintain in the absence of technical experts from humanitarian agencies. Whatever the response, without arable land Darfur refugees can never return to their homes, and without land local authorities cannot build political alliances, conclude land deals or buy-off other tribes. In short, without land the social fabric of Darfur unravels. Darfur, Sudan and the entirety of central Africa can expect no permanent peace without water. The world should take heed, for what were problems once considered exclusive to Africa are fast becoming global.

Relief Web, “Sudan: Climate change escalates Darfur crisis,” http://www.reliefweb.int/rwarchive/rwb.nsf/db900sid/EKOI-75H3R9?OpenDocument&Click=

Global Policy Forum, “Shrinking of Lake Chad,” http://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/198/40377.html

Stephen Faris, “The Real Roots of Darfur,” The Atlantic Monthly April 2007.

Also see Climate Wars by Gwynne Dyer. Continue reading this article...

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Darfur Digest - October 2009

The October 2009 issue is now available.

Stand Canada's Darfur Digest is a report which contains analysis on current events relevant to the crisis in Darfur and offers a unique Canadian perspective.
This month, the digest chronicles developments in four areas: The Negotiations and Peace Process, Humanitarian Affairs and Security, The Friends of UNAMID, and Darfur in Canadian Politics.

NEW: The Digest has undergone a design overhaul. We will be continuing to improve the format over the next months.

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A Big Day!

Vote for google to give money to create a genocide early warning system!


BREAKING NEWS: Canada supplies Darfur peacekeepers with equipment http://ow.ly/tbNs Continue reading this article...

Peacekeeping Privatized: Mercenaries and the future of humanitarian intervention

The fighting in Sierra Leone ended rather abruptly, considering three years of civil war had been resolved in little more than a month. In Freetown, the British Parachute Regiment had secured the international airport and was busy evacuating British nationals. Just offshore a powerful British naval task force, one of the largest assembled since the Falklands War, waited in support. While international media was riveted by British efforts to prop up the failing UN peacekeeping mission, British forces were not acting alone. On land, deep in the interior of the tiny West African nation, another army was busy mopping up the shattered remnants of Liberian President Charles Taylor’s proxy child militias. This army wore no patches revealing identity and belonging, and while it was fighting under the banner of Sierra Leone, it was beyond the reach of that government’s jurisdiction. This army was in fact Executive Outcomes of South Africa, one of the first private military companies (PMCs, better known as mercenaries) to offload responsibilities from militaries that were either too weak (such as Sierra Leone) or too expensive (such as the United States) to go it alone. It is likely that PMCs will see more business in civil wars and humanitarian operations. So the question is: if Executive Outcomes was so effective in ending the fighting in Sierra Leone, could another mercenary firm provide better security for Darfur?

Hundreds of mercenary firms are operating around the world today, most offering training and logistical support to their varied clientele (sometimes governments, sometimes rebel movements, sometimes crime lords). The largest firms, however, such as Executive Outcomes during the late 1990s and Blackwater Worldwide today (now Xe Services LLC), are capable of deploying their own self-sufficient combat units trained in VIP and convoy protection and offensive operations. With mercenary firms handling a rapidly expanding repertoire of military operations it was inevitable that peacekeeping would be suggested as well.

In the July/August 2009 issue of the Atlantic Monthly (“Quick Fixes”) James S. Gibney argued that mercenaries offer the most effective solution to civil conflicts around the world. Gibney points out that despite the deployment of more than 18,000 peacekeepers to the Congo the UN has failed to protect the lives of millions since first arriving in 1999. With echoes of Srebrenica, one contingent of UN soldiers “failed to stop a massacre of 150 people taking place less than a mile away.” Other troops have rearmed militias by trading their weapons for ivory, gold and drugs.

Gibney argues that mercenaries, “small, highly-trained” strike forces who are proven insurgency-killers, offer the most promising future for peacekeeping. Most importantly, mercenaries will “go where they’re paid to go” (Gibney), allowing governments to act regardless of public opinion or military constraints. Prominent military historian Max Boot worries that without the more formidable security capabilities of PMCs, the many “pieces of paper” produced by the recurring rounds of negotiations will never carry any significance. So should the United Nations start thinking about deploying mercenaries on peacekeeping missions? Or is the use of private military forces more dangerous than Gibney and Boot would have us believe? A review of the following considerations may help clarify the issue.

-Casualties have undermined Western war efforts since Vietnam, and the images of a dead American soldier being dragged through the dusty streets of Mogadishu in 1994 effectively killed Operation Restore Hope. However, because mercenaries are not members of national militaries, their deaths are not included in the official casualty counts released to the public. If you want more sustained support for a combat mission use mercenaries to lessen the number of casualties that appear on the evening news. Few people can sympathize with shadowy organizations whose official presence is secreted by the government, and media will not be as interested in reporting their losses.

-Possibly the most professional soldiers in the world, many mercenaries are veterans of elite commando units such as the British Special Air Service. Their ranks are filled by adventurers, fortune seekers, unemployed soldiers and idealists. Whatever their individual backgrounds they make for a highly potent rank and file. However, few mercenaries have any familiarity with the more delicate demands of humanitarian intervention, operations that require significant restraint and flexibility (as we will see below, these are not skills common to PMCs).

In addition to employing soldiers with elite military training, security companies also arm their mercenaries with considerable firepower. While operating in Iraq, for example, employees of Blackwater Worldwide regularly hit the streets of Baghdad armed with M4 rifles, M240B machine guns and M203 40-millimeter grenade launchers, backed up by armoured cars and attack helicopters. The larger firms are also equipped with significant intelligence and logistics assets which can be used to support their own armies or those of national governments.

For small and medium military powers like Canada, mercenaries offer governments a readily available force multiplier, that is, they provide a trained and self-sufficient army ready for deployment upon payment. The Canadian government can hire a mercenary firm to provide such services as logistical support and intelligence in Darfur, even though most of the Army’s strength is already committed to Afghanistan.

-The occupation of Iraq has demonstrated that private military contractors operate in a legal grey zone, apparently immune from both civilian and military law. This is particularly worrisome given the amount of firepower they carry and their willingness to use it. In 2007, while escorting a VIP convoy, Blackwater operatives massacred 17 civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square after receiving enemy fire. While it was quickly established that the convoy had not come under attack and the killings unjustified, Blackwater was not seriously punished and resumed operations after a short hiatus.

The legal vacuum that protects PMCs is partially a result of their sudden reappearance in conflict zones. Where state security forces are subject to a detailed legal code developed over hundreds of years, there has been insufficient time to integrate mercenary forces into military law, or develop parallel legal structures for PMCs alone. Nor is this likely to happen anytime soon. Because civil law prohibits the state from interfering in the personnel affairs of a private corporation, it is up to the PMC to ensure that its mercenaries respect national laws and international regulations.

-But modern military contractors have raised more ethical challenges than legal ambiguities alone. As Rolf Uesseler wrote in his introduction to Servants of War,
“Seldom is it clear for whom they’re fighting, or who pays them or has sent them into action. Often no one can say to whom they’re responsible, if indeed anyone. Nor is anyone in any great hurry to inquire where they acquired their state-of-the-art military hardware, including tanks, attack helicopters, grenades, and missiles.”

-Finally, even if mercenaries were deployed in place of national soldiers as UN peacekeepers, they would (presumably) still have to operate under a United Nations mandate, one that is just as prohibitive to private soldiers as public ones. Gibney and Boot can argue that PMCs would bring their professionalism and resources to Darfur and deal with insecurity more effectively than the present UN mission, but it seems unlikely that Khartoum would consent to anything other than a traditional UN deployment, that is, one with national contingents and Security Council mandates. Using mercenaries as peacekeepers would be too tempting a loophole for Khartoum to ignore, and its inevitable demands for immediate withdrawal would carry some real legitimacy.

Some more pros and cons in point form:

-Pro: Rapid deployment of military forces to conflict zones.
-Pro: Potential UN area of operations expanded.
-Con: Use by the UN endows PMCs with significant legitimacy.
-Con: Refugees protected by PMCs viewed as "taking sides", making them
more legitimate military targets. (Uesseler 196).
-Con: Aid organizations protected by PMCs lose their neutrality.
*See Uesseler Servants of War
So what do you think? Should we “unleash the dogs of peace” as Gibney and Boot advocate, or resist the temptation to use (probably more effective) mercenary forces in Darfur, thereby confronting the ethical dilemmas of using mercenaries more generally?

James S. Gibney, "Unleash the Dogs of Peace?" Atlantic Monthly, July/August 2009.

Max Boot, "Send in the mercenaries: Darfur needs someone to stop the bloodshed, not more empty UN promises. Council on Foreign Relations", http://www.cfr.org/publication/10798/send_in_the_mercenaries.html

Jeremy Scahill, Blackwater: The rise of the world’s most powerful mercenary army, (New York: Nation Books, 2007).

Rolf Uesseler, Servants of War: Private Military Corporations and the Profit of Conflict, (Brooklyn: Soft Skull Press, 2008).

Nicholas D. Kristof, "Sending Mercenaries Into Darfur", The New York Times

Blackwater’s ‘humanitarian’ subsidiary: Greystone LTD., http://www.greystone-ltd.com/security.html Continue reading this article...

What ARE they doing? Part Three

Photograph from Government of Canada, http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/sudan-soudan/assets/images/10-03-10.jpg.

I’d like to start this entry by apologising for the long hiatus in my blog entries. This was partly due to the fact that I spent the month of July doing research in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, which was fascinating, difficult, and above all, time-consuming!

I’m now back and would like to pick up where I left off, which is with looking at security, the third and final pillar in Canada’s three-pronged strategy towards Sudan (the other pillars are aid and diplomacy). Here I return to the Canadian government’s website on Sudan – which, just to remind you, can be found at http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/sudan-soudan/index.aspx. According to this site, Canada is a contributor to both of the UN peacekeeping operations in Sudan: the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS). The government reports that “in addition to diplomatic, financial and material support, Canada has committed up to 50 Canadian Forces personnel and 25 civilian police officers to these peacekeeping operations in Sudan.”

The website explains that “Canada provides, on a voluntary basis, training and equipment for African countries deploying civilian police, military and Formed Police Units (FPUs) to UNAMID” – the example given is Canada’s provision of GILA armoured vehicles and non-armoured equipment to four African FPUs taking part in UNAMID: two units from Senegal, one from Burkina Faso, and one from Uganda. Apparently Canada also funds training “to help prepare peacekeeping personnel and units deploying to UNAMID,” part of which was carried out by the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre, but concrete details of this training are not provided on the site.

Operation Saturn, the website tells us, refers to the deployment of “Canadian Forces personnel...to UNAMID to provide needed expertise.” Task Force Darfur is the name given to Canada’s UNAMID contingent, which is commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Ken Moore and is headquartered at El Fasher. The contingent has seven members of personnel: three logistics experts working at the headquarters of UNAMID, and four soldiers who train UNAMID troops in the operation of Grizzly and Husky AVGPs (which stands for ‘armoured vehicles, general purpose’) lent to the mission by the Canadian government.

Finally, Canada is currently the co-chair (with the US) of the “Friends of UNAMID,” a group made up of UN member states with an interest in the mission, as well as UN personnel. According to the website, this group meets regularly “to facilitate the swift and full deployment of UNAMID and coordinate donor support for the mission.”
Previous to Canadian support to UNAMID, Canada also supported the old African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) – the precursor to UNAMID – from 2004 to 2007. The website states that Canada was “one of the most important donors to AMIS,” providing “essential airlift and ground transportation, as well as targeted expert deployments of civilian police and Canadian Forces personnel to the mission” within the framework of Operation Augural.

Operation Augural, as Canada’s military involvement with AMIS, had the aim of building “capacity in the areas of strategic planning, air operations, contracting, logistics and operations planning, and land operations with the Canadian “armoured vehicle, general purpose”, or AVGP.” Canada began supporting the mission in 2004, contributing “basic army equipment, including helmets, body armour, and maps,” totalling over 104 million dollars. Then, in 2005, the Canadian government lent 105 AVGPs, to Senegal, Rwanda, and Nigeria, three troop-contributing countries. As mentioned above, this loan was later extended to UNAMID for a three-year period from 31 December 2007 to 30 June 2009 under the auspices of Operation Saturn). Finally, the website refers to “[a]viation assistance provided by Canadian contracted helicopters to AMIS,” particularly during the transition from AMIS to the UNAMID mission. Canada’s mission of support to AMIS was named Task Force Addis Ababa., made up of 11 members of the Canadian Forces. This included five working in mission support, as well as with the Darfur Integrated Task Force (DITF) in Addis Ababa, two working on contracts and logistics in Khartoum, and four based in El Fashir in Darfur, providing “logistics support” and training Nigerian, Rwandan, and Senegalese troops in the use of the AVGPs.

Finally, Canada also supports the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in the Sudan, or UNMIS, through Operation Safari, which is “the military component of the Canadian whole-of-government engagement in southern Sudan.” This refers to the deployment of members of the Canadian Forces, as well as civilian police officers, who have been deployed to Sudan’s southern region “as peacekeepers and military observers.” The contingent of Canadian Forces personnel, Task Force Sudan, includes 30 members. 20 of these act as United Nations Military Observers (UNMOs) across southern Sudan; another eight are staff members at UNMIS Headquarters in the Sudanese capital; and another two are with the “Canadian support element in Khartoum.”

UNAMID’s ongoing shortfall is well-known – particularly in terms of troops and helicopters – but could Canada do more than what it is already doing? In terms of troops, it is certainly falling woefully short, with no more than 50 Canadian Armed Forces personnel committed throughout the different peacekeeping missions that have been established for Sudan. What of helicopters and other essential equipment for the mission – can Canada be doing more than it is? According to the website itself, other than the “GILA armoured vehicles and non-armoured equipment” that Canada is providing to UNAMID, it appears that much-needed helicopters have not been a part of what Canada has able to provide, or willing to press other countries to provide. What is the reason for this? What is Canada currently doing as co-chair of the Friends of UNAMID? Watch this space... Continue reading this article...

Stand in the Summer

Guest Post by Anne Wagner, Principal Director

It's a Thursday in August - I would surmise that the majority of young Canadians, and our Stand members, are trying to make the most of their summers today, be it by working to earn money to get through the year, relaxing with friends and family while they can, traveling to see the world...all things we need to do rejuvenate ourselves and keep ourselves sane and functioning throughout the next year.

Summer is a relatively quiet time for Stand, at least outwardly so. We don't put on major events, our chapters aren't making splashes in the local and national news, our members aren't hosting and speaking at rallies...but the organization hums along quietly and with building momentum in the background. Summer is the time when here at National we take a step back and review our year, to try to gauge the impact of what we have done, and plan for the upcoming year. We toss around ideas, formulate plans and agree on a vision.

But that vision needs to be shared by all of Stand, which is why we hold a National conference, where we invite our members from all of our teams and chapters to attend and plan and learn to advocate even better together. This year we're changing our pattern - we used to have our conference in May so that we could have meetings with Members of Parliament in Ottawa before the House of Commons rose for the summer. This year, we will be having our conference in very early October to strengthen our chapters and team at the beginning of the year, once they have recruited new members. And this year, our action item won't focus on advocacy meetings, it will focus on activism in another context and on the focus for the year - growth. Now is the time to focus on growing the grassroots support for the anti-genocide movement, to give strength to our policy recommendations. Our conference will have a large component focusing on growth, and on capturing the attention of your community and new supporters. Check back at www.standcanada.org and here for further details about conference applications in the coming weeks.

I used to feel like we weren't doing enough in the summers, that I personally could have been doing more that would tangibly make a difference for the people of Darfur. But I've come to realize that the work of planning, of getting ourselves organized, inspired and pulling in the same direction, actually elicits better results in the long run. We are able to execute bigger campaigns, have stronger teams and see more impact and change when we take a step back over the summer and figure out our next moves. So Standers, enjoy your summers, take a break and rejuvenate, and spend a little time planning your next move. We'll speak to you in a few weeks.

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