SUDAN: Unity paramount, say delegates to Darfur talks

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Delegates attending the Darfur peace talks in Libya – apparently undaunted by the no-show of several key rebel groups - have called for a peaceful end to the suffering of civilians and a political agreement that strengthens the communities living in the war-ravaged region.

"We are looking for unity, not fragmentation," Abusaid El Hassan, one of four speakers for the Sudanese government delegation said during a plenary session on 28 October.

Abdel Magid Dosa, coordinator and legal consultant of the Sudan National Movement for Reformation and Development, a civil society group, said: "We are serious about being here; we are all aware that war is not in man's nature, rather it is peace that is the nature of man.

"The reason for the violence in Darfur is the scorched-earth policy that the government has adopted. The government is the one bombarding the people because rebel movements there do not own planes."

The government delegation is led by Nafie Ali Nafie, while Ahmed Ibrahim Diraige of the Sudan Federal Democratic Alliance spoke on behalf of the movements present during the opening of the talks on 27 October and their desire for peace.

Other speakers at the plenary stressed the need to end suffering and violence through a political agreement that would ensure Sudan does not disintegrate.

However, Ibrahim Abdallah, a representative of the Justice and Equality Movement faction led by Idriss Ibrahim Azraq, broke ranks with the others, saying the "right to self-determination is the final solution" for the Darfur crisis.

"We must recognise that a unity based on the marginalisation of another part of the country is unworkable," he said. "We must have self-determination after a transitory phase because the surveys that our organisation has carried out in IDP [internally displaced persons] camps in Darfur show that 80 percent of the displaced support the right to self-determination."

Most speakers agreed the core of the Darfur crisis was hinged on the security of the Darfur people, cessation of hostilities, economic recovery, land and governance.

Mohamed Ali Nasser, representing the Sudan Liberation Movement, said the nature of the dispute in Darfur was social, political and economic. "We know that freedom is not granted or inherited - one has to struggle for it and we will strive for it through negotiations," he said.

Four and a half years of violence in Darfur has led to the deaths of an estimated 200,000 people and the displacement of another two million.

The Sirte talks follow the signing in Abuja, Nigeria, in 2006 of the Darfur Peace Agreement. Signed by one faction of the already-splintered Sudan Liberation Movement, the agreement quickly fell apart.

On 29 October, the UN Secretary-General’s envoy to Darfur Jan Eliasson and his AU counterpart Salim Ahmed Salim, who are mediating the Sirte talks, met representatives from the Sudanese government, civil society, international partners and rebel groups.

"I refuse to state that the peace process is interrupted," Eliasson told reporters. "The train has left the station for the road to peace. The question is how many passengers will get on the train."

Meanwhile, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes has expressed concern over alleged forced relocations in an IDP camp in South Darfur.

The Sudanese government has denied the incident.

"I am alarmed about the reports of forced relocation last night [28 October] from Otash camp in Nyala, South Darfur, both about the manner in which the relocations were apparently carried out and the possibility that such action could contribute to more violence," Holmes said in New York.

Otash camp shelters over 60,000 people and during the incident new IDPs from Kalma camp, the largest in Darfur, were surrounded by police. A team comprising personnel from the UN, the AU Mission in Sudan and the International Organisation for Migration was denied access to the camp by the representative of the Humanitarian Aid Commission.

According to the UN, the team managed to enter the camp, and witnessed 10 vehicles with heavy machine guns surrounding a group of IDPs, while eight large commercial trucks were being loaded with the belongings of women and children. The police said the people were being moved to Amakassara.

Source: IRIN