Providing air defense for South Sudan not ideal, but best available option
While there are flaws with the idea of providing air defense capabilities to South Sudan, it may be the best option for protecting civilians, writes guest blogger David Sullivan from the ENOUGH advocacy group.
In a recent post for Think Progress, guest blogger Lauren Jenkins raises some salient concerns about the provision of air defense capabilities to the Government of South Sudan, an idea that Rep. Don Payne, Democrat of New Jersey), proposed during last week’s hearing on Sudan. Given that Enough endorsed this approach in a press release that same day, it’s worth taking a moment to address some of these concerns.Skip to next paragraph
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Providing air defense capabilities to the South Sudan government is neither an ideal response to the rising violence in Sudan, nor a step that should be undertaken rashly. But the chilling reports coming out of the Nuba Mountains suggest the wider potential for mass violence in the region and demand a consideration of all the options available to protect civilians from further harm, consistent with the international Responsibility to Protect doctrine, which is premised on the idea that the international community must act when a government abdicates its own responsibility to protect its citizens and commits atrocities.
Unfortunately, the options available are not good. Strengthening UN peacekeepers in the region sounds appealing, but the fact is that the Government of Sudan has been dropping bombs near UN bases in South Kordofan and some of the Egyptian peacekeepers in the region have been accused of siding with the Sudanese army and have lost the trust of local populations. Moreover, in response to mounting violence in Abyei, and to fighting between the SPLA and militias in South Sudan, the UN response has been to stay out of the way. A deal to get a robust Ethiopian peacekeeping force into Abyei is a welcome development, but it should be clear that UN peacekeepers have proven themselves unable to credibly protect the most vulnerable of Sudanese civilians at present.
What about a no-fly zone? Jenkins notes the controversy this proposal generated when it was endorsed by Hillary Clinton in 2007, but the more recent example is Libya, where the UN imposed a no-fly zone and authorized the much more significant military action currently underway. In Darfur, the problem with a no-fly zone is that it would have threatened humanitarian access to the millions of displaced persons in the region. Today in South Kordofan, humanitarian access has been almost completely blocked by the Sudanese Armed Forces, such as through the bombing of the airfield at Kauda, which would have been essential to getting aid into the region. But the fact is that even if a no-fly zone could help deter further bombing, there is little prospect for international authorization, especially with Russia and China ready to block any such action because of their perception that Western governments have taken a civilian protection mandate in Libya and used it to pursue regime change. The deadlock at the Security Council has not just taken a no-fly zone off the table, but also blocked additional measures that could be considered, such as an expanded arms embargo on the Sudanese government, to say nothing of direct military action.
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