After four years, at least 200,000 deaths and the displacement of some two million people, the UN has finally reached agreement on deploying peacekeepers to the Darfur region of Sudan. Unfortunately, the beleaguered people of Darfur aren't likely to notice much difference.
Concessions wrought by China and Russia, both of whom have lucrative oil and other trade deals with the murderous and corrupt Sudanese government, have rendered the mission's mandate so toothless as to be virtually irrelevant. Peacekeepers won't be allowed to disarm militias such as the government-supported Janjaweed, or arrest suspected war criminals. And, contrary to assertations by UK prime minister and UN cheerleader Gordon Brown a couple of days ago, Sudan will not face sanctions if it doesn't cooperate with the mission.
So Khartoum will continue to run rings around the 'international community' for a few months more (the peacekeepers won't even start arriving until October) while the UN and its friends hail another victory for diplomacy.
The BBC reports Jonathan Pearce, from the UK's Disasters Emergency Committee, as saying the peacekeeping force could make a "tremendous impact". If the unfortunate past history of UN peacekeeping in Sudan, and Africa in general is anything to go by, this tremendous impact is likely to be on statistics for rape, child abuse, gun-running and other criminality.
As an editorial in the Wall Street Journal puts it (subscription required): 'Khartoum won't tolerate a potent force in the absence of outside pressure – and China and Russia won't permit the U.N. to apply that pressure. Liberal moralists calling on the world to "do something" in Sudan while also putting faith in the U.N. above all else need to face up to this contradiction. Otherwise, there will be more Rwandas, Bosnias and Darfurs.'
The bureaucrats working for the most ineffective, wasteful and unaccountable institution in the history of the world will no doubt be celebrating their latest achievement by hammering their expense accounts in the finest hotels and restaurants that Africa, Europe and New York have to offer. In Darfur, people will continue to go hungry, flee their homes and die.