Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Peace Deal Signed in Darfur

by Bangkok Post, May 6, 2006

[In the US, the entire focus of coverage on Darfur has been on human suffering and genocide. There has been no coverage of armed combat or a rebellion. In the NorthEast it is the reverse. News coverage is about the national conflict, with no mention of the suffering inflicted on the population. Why? --Editor]


[by the numbers]
Map and charts from The Wall Street Journal


Abuja (dpa) - After two years of negotiations and a dramatic last minute turn, a main Sudanese rebel group and its splinter organization signed a peace agreement with the Khartoum government intended to end the violent conflict in Sudan's western region of Darfur.

Final concessions calling for the disarming of the government- backed Janjaweed militias and improved power and wealth sharing for the Darfur region were incorporated into the long-sought deal, finally gaining the support of the Sudan Liberation Movement and Army (SLMA), negotiators said.

The deal also calls for the rebel group's combatants to be integrated into the Sudanese army.

The second major rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement, remains a holdout on the peace agreement brokered by African Union (AU) mediators to end the three-year old conflict. The group stormed out of Thursday's session and did not return Friday.

Minni Minnawi, who signed on as the main SLMA leader, urged the international community to ensure that Khartoum cooperates fully in implementing the agreement.

"Comprehensive and just peace must prevail in Darfur and in the whole of Sudan," sad Minnawi. "Any peace deal that comes on paper and is not reflected on the ground is not a true peace."

The US on Friday welcomed the signing of the peace agreement, calling it "a significant step in a long process to bring peace to all the people of Darfur."

"The United States fully supports this agreement to end the conflict and suffering in Darfur. This is an important day for the people of Darfur," the White House said in a statement.

The SLMA splinter group came back to the table just as the proceedings were about to close late Friday, triggering thunderous applause. It said it was abandoning its leader, Abdul Waheed Al-Nur, to join the deal.

"I have worked for Al-Nur for three years and he has shunned all overtures for peace made to him and it is unfortunate that he dragged the peace deal for too long," said Professor Abdul Rahaman Musa, chief negotiator for the splinter group.

The conflict in Darfur has resulted in the deaths of at least 200,000 people and the displacement of 2 million people from their homes as the rebel groups engaged Khartoum in a conflict that peaked in 2003. The government sent armed militia groups on horseback, called Janjaweed, to carry out a campaign of violent reprisals, rape and killing in the region.

Similar tactics were used by the government during the 1980s and 1990s against rebel groups in southern Sudan, where an uneasy power- and-wealth sharing peace agreement was signed just last year. Sudan's rich oil deposits are part of the country's contended wealth.

The main branch of the SMLA signed earlier Friday after lengthy talks and the intervention of high ranking figures from the US and Britain.

Magzhoub Al-Khalifa, leader of Khartoum delegation, signed the peace deal for the Sudanese government.

"Peace in Darfur and in Sudan begins from this Abuja agreement. We as government will take responsibility and show commitment to the full implementation of the peace package," he said. "There will no longer be any incidence of ceasefire violations as we will ensure that it does not happen from this moment onward."

The main SLMA group balked at signing the deal until the concessions were made to disarm the militias and integrate rebels into the Sudanese military, Safeldine Haruon, spokesman for the main SLMA group, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

In addition, the group - which he said controls about 80 per cent of Darfur - felt that cooperation could open the death-plagued Darfur region to international support.

"We believe that by signing the document, we will get the international community to our side,"

Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo said the twist to the long- winding peace deal showed the world that Africa was better placed to solve its problems than any other region could. But he also said the talks were exhausting.

"Many times, the goal post was changed and sometimes completely removed," he said.

Obasanjo conceded that the AU peace document may not be satisfactory to all those involved, saying the government of Sudan will likely "complain, but they will not derail in the implementation."

"We also appreciate the dilemma of the leader of the rebel movement as he has to satisfy his commandants at the battle field and gain as much as possible politically during negotiations," the Nigerian president said.

US deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, who brought pressure from Washington into the proceedings earlier this week, gave assurances at the ceremony that the United States would stand by Darfur to speed up reconstruction and rehabilitation.

He said the US would work especially with the rebel group to convince the people of Darfur to support the peace agreement as a wise decision.

International partners at the talks like the European Union, Canada, the United Kingdom, Libya, Egypt, the League of Arab States and the AU gave similar assurances.

In New York, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urged Sudan and rebel groups to "move quickly" to implement the agreement, which he said gives the opportunity to strengthen peacekeeping operations in Darfur, starting with the African Union forces that have been in the war-torn region for the past two years.

The UN is planning to deploy peace troops to replace the AU by year's end.

"I appeal to the parties to implement their commitments in good faith so as to stop the bloodshed and ongoing violence in Darfur, and to cooperate with the AU and the UN on the ground," he said.

Federal Republic of Congo's President Dennis Sassou Nguesso, who doubles as African Union chairman, enjoined all parties to the conflict to "embark on the train of peace."

Britain's Minister of International Cooperation Hilary Benn called the agreement "a momentous achievement and tremendous credit for the AU."

"The agreement signing gives hope that the people of Darfur will heave a sigh of relief as they have suffered for too long," he said.

Jan Pronk, Special Envoy of the Secretary General of the UN to the talks, pledged international support for humanitarian needs, peacekeeping and sustainable development.


from the Houston Chronicle

Fighting in Darfur began in February 2003 when rebels from black African tribes took up arms, complaining of discrimination and oppression by Sudan's Arab-dominated government. The government is accused of unleashing Arab tribal militia known as the Janjaweed against civilians in a campaign of murder, rape and arson _ a charge the government denies.

The conflict has killed about 180,000 people _ mostly through disease and hunger _ and displaced 2 million.

The agreement signed Friday was between the government and the main rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army, but two smaller rebel groups refused to sign.

The peace deal calls for a cease-fire; disarmament of the Janjaweed militias; the integration of thousands of rebel fighters into Sudan's armed forces; and a protection force for civilians in the immediate aftermath of the war.

Political provisions include guarantees rebel factions will have the majority in Darfur's three state legislatures, but the rebels did not get the national vice presidency they had sought.

"We are confident that such a peace agreement reached through an enormous investment by the parties and the international partners have the chance to succeed," the Sudanese envoy said.

Welcoming the agreement, Annan said, "I urge the other two parties to seize this historic moment and sign the agreement that will bring this tragic chapter in the history of Sudan to an end."

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