Diplomatic Fallout: Is Mali the Next Darfur for U.N. Peacekeeping?

Diplomatic Fallout: Is Mali the Next Darfur for U.N. Peacekeeping?

Who cares about Darfur these days? The conflict in the western Sudanese region, which galvanized public opinion in the middle of the last decade, is now rarely in the headlines. This is not because the area is calm. Renewed violence has displaced 300,000 of its inhabitants this year alone. The United Nations and African Union still have 19,000 troops and police officers trying to keep the peace there. But fresher crises, such as those in Mali and Syria, have long replaced Darfur at the top of the international agenda.

Yet policymakers grappling with these newer conflicts should keep Darfur in mind. There is a risk that some of the mistakes made there are now being repeated elsewhere. In particular, there are notable and unnerving parallels between the rollout of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Mali and the ill-fated mission in Darfur.

In 2006 and 2007, the Security Council debated at great length whether and how to deploy U.N. troops to Darfur. Although the AU had peacekeepers in the area from 2004, they were poorly equipped and had little impact on the conflict around them. The Sudanese government opposed proposals for a more effective force of blue helmets. Khartoum eventually agreed to accept a new force under joint U.N. and AU command, but insisted that the bulk of its personnel should come from Africa.

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