ONE MONTH ago, the U.N. Security Council demanded progress on the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Darfur. A resolution called on Sudan's government to allow aid workers unimpeded access to the province and to rein in the genocidal Janjaweed militia that has chased more than a million people from their homes. The deadline for compliance passed on Monday, but compliance has been halfhearted. Aid workers' access has indeed improved, proving that U.N. pressure does influence the government's behavior. But the government has made only a superficial attempt to rein in the Janjaweed, and a U.N. team reported last week that attacks against civilians continue. If it wishes its resolutions to be taken seriously, the Security Council must follow through on its threat to impose sanctions when it meets tomorrow to consider Sudan.
That is not the main thing the Security Council must do, however. The concept of last month's resolution was flawed from the outset, in that it was calling upon the main instigator of Darfur's crisis to become the savior. Having dispatched helicopter gunships to shoot down civilians, and having armed a militia that has burned children to death and raped mothers, Sudan's government cannot suddenly become the source of security that persuades traumatized refugees to return to their homes. Security can come only when a serious foreign force arrives in the territory. The African Union, which already has 300 personnel in Darfur, is willing to provide 3,000. Ensuring their deployment must be the main objective of tomorrow's Security Council meeting.
The African troops will need Western money and logistical support, as well as assistance in planning their mission. But the clearest obstacle to their deployment is the fact that Sudan's government opposes it. To break down that opposition, the Security Council must call explicitly for African peacekeepers to go into Darfur. It should also keep some sanctions in reserve and hint strongly that Sudan's chances of avoiding further penalty will depend on its willingness to invite in the African Union. The United Nations should also mandate a commission of inquiry to gather evidence of crimes against humanity in Darfur. The prospect of prosecution in an international court should capture the attention of Sudanese leaders.
Why might the Security Council shrink from this course? The argument that Sudan's government is already making a good-faith effort to control the militia is unconvincing. According to Human Rights Watch, the government allows the Janjaweed to maintain 16 bases in Darfur, including five that are shared with the government's own forces, presumably because it still regards the Janjaweed as a useful ally in its struggle against two Darfuri rebel groups (whose human rights record is not good, either). But even if one were to agree that Sudan's government is trying to do the right thing, why object to the deployment of African peacekeepers to assist it? The answer is that there is no reasonable objection, but Sudan's sympathizers at the United Nations, led by China and Pakistan, seem determined to hold up Security Council action that might make the deployment happen.
Meanwhile, Darfur's people are dying.