SUDAN-CHAD: Another new peace agreement, this one to be signed at OIC summit

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Chad and Sudan have signed numerous peace agreements pledging to stop supporting rebels in the past and human right groups say they are not holding their breath that a new agreement brokered by Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade, which is scheduled to be signed at the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) summit in Dakar on 12 March, will be any different. But the groups are encouraged that the OIC is for the first time getting involved.

“For years we have been trying to get OIC countries to pressure Khartoum to stop the killing in Darfur but they didn’t want to speak out,” said Amir Osman, international advocacy director of the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Save Darfur, which, together with the Senegalese-based human rights NGO RADDHO (Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme), organised a roundtable on Darfur ahead of the 12-16 March OIC meeting.

“We have managed to get the UN, the African Union and even the Arab League involved but we think the OIC could have an enormous influence,” he told IRIN on 10 March.

Osman said that getting the OIC involved is seen as important because it includes more countries than the Arab League, another grouping of Islamic countries. One country in the OIC that is not in the Arab League is Malaysia which has major oil interests in Sudan, although a diplomatic source in Chad told IRIN that Malaysia is likely to get involved to support Sudan and that could make Chad less likely to respect any agreement.

Another non-Arab OIC country is Senegal which will assume the OIC presidency after the summit. “Senegal is seen as more neutral than Libya and Saudi Arabia [which brokered previous agreements between Sudan and Chad],” Osman said.

He and another NGO official IRIN spoke with said they are encouraged that the new agreement also comes with a plan by which to implement it, although they said they had not as yet seen any of the documents.

As with previous agreements, President Wade said last week in Paris that the two sides would agree to “stop supporting each other's opposition on their territory”. Chadian President Idriss Deby and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir are accused of supporting insurgents bent on overthrowing each other’s government, though both leaders deny it.

The Sudanese rebel group Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) is led by Khalil Ibrahim, who is a member of the Chadian President’s Zaghawa ethnic group. Chadian rebels said to be supported by Sudan took control of parts of Chad’s capital N’djamena for a couple of days in early February.

Recent fighting between Sudanese government forces and rebels allegedly supported by Chad in the Jebel Moun area of West Darfur, Sudan, has left many civilians dead and wounded and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes.

Source: IRIN