22-February-2024

Darfur Peace Talks and Argument over Doha Peace Document

By: Aisha Braima

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Sudanow) - Delegates from the government of Sudan and two Darfuri armed rebel movements, the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Movement/SLA faction, are still at loggerhead seven days after arrival in Addis Ababa, over whether to reopen a peace document, signed in the Qatari capital Doha in 2011, and start peace talks afresh or re-build upon that sealed deal and move ahead.
The Darfur conflict erupted in western Sudan region of Darfur, near the borders with Chad, almost a decade ago, disrupting development and affecting sizable portion of the rural population there. Two rebel groups spearheaded the mutiny: the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). But since 2003, these two movements have suffered from fragmentations into dozens of splinter groups. These breakups have impacted not only in prolongation of the strife, but equally, made it difficult to negotiate and reach a conclusive and lasting settlement with the central government, hence the multiplicity of negotiation fora.
The two sides flew in Addis Ababa, November 22 at the invitation of the neutral African Union High level Implementation Panel of the African Union (AUHIP), to mainly discuss "a ceasefire" agreement that will pave the way for a political settlement. This political settlement is envisaged to be within the context of the National Dialogue Initiative (ND), an internationally recognized initiative by President Omar al Bashir early this year, seeking to address the root causes of, and reach a universal solution for discontents within the country.
Dr Amin Hassan Omar, led a powerful government delegation, while Dr Jibril Ibrahim, brother of the late Dr Khalil Ibrahim, spearheads JEM delegation, likewise, Meni Arko Minawi, former Presidential Assistant, heads the SLM/SLA delegation.
The Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) which the government delegation considers the reference for all issues related to Darfur was finalized at the All Darfur Stakeholders Conference in May 2011, in Doha, Qatar. The detail-rich document of over 100 pages lies in seven chapters, final provisions and the implementation timetable. It covers Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Power-Sharing and the Administrative Status of Darfur, Wealth Sharing, Compensation and the Return of IDPs and Refugees, Justice and Reconciliation, Permanent Ceasefire and Final Security Arrangements, Internal Dialogue and Consultation & Implementation Modalities, Final Provisions and Implementation Timetable.

It leaves no stone unturned and as such drew wide regional and international recognition. The DDPD is the culmination of two and half years of negotiations, dialogue and consultations with the major parties to the Darfur conflict, all relevant stakeholders and international partners. In fact it was initiated, brokered and mediated by the UN, the AU, and the Arab league and was hosted by the State of Qatar.
The African Union United Nations Hybrid peace keeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) says the DDPD "is now the framework for the comprehensive peace process in Darfur."
At the opening session of the current talks, each side delivered a statement: the government saying the DDPD should remain the framework for the process and that the delegates were here, as the invitation of the AUHIP states, to discuss a cessation of hostilities that will immediately lead to a comprehensive ceasefire, which ultimately leads to a political settlement within the said initiative of President Al Bashir.
The two rebel groups are adamant that they wanted to initiate a new process in which the DDPD will have no place. In fact the SLA leader argued that it was "failed" document, notwithstanding that development projects, rehabilitation programmes are currently being implemented in Darfur based on that same Doha agreement.
The rebel also argued that they were not part of the DDPD. To which Dr Amin, head of the government, argued that the two movements were involved in the process and in the finalization of the document. In the all stakeholders meeting, he argued, SLA was represented by the current deputy head of the delegation. In fact Mr. Mini himself was part and parcel of the government at the time. He was the Assistant of the President of the Republic, the fourth man in the power hierarchy in the Sudan at the time.
In Feb. 26, 2010, Mini held a press conference, according to Al Shrook TV network, praising the deal and saying a framework agreement signed between the government of the Sudan and the Justice and Equality Movement in the Qatari capital Doha, was "supportive of the Abuja peace deal". The JEM –government of Sudan framework agreement was of course based on the DDPD.

Similarly, Mini, took part in the all donors conference, held in Cairo, Egypt, shortly after the deal was sealed, and which raised a whooping 850 million dollars, for Darfur development projects and programmes. It was within the Doha peace agreement. The Qataris also promised to provide 2 billion dollars for establishing a development bank for Darfur, always within the DDPD context.

Mini was quoted in an interview with the Qatari based Al Raya (Arabic for the Banner) daily as saying that the DDPD "sets the lead for a final and a comprehensive agreement, because as a framework agreement it paves the way for reaching a comprehensive settlement for the Darfur question".

Thus both JEM and SLA, the head of the government delegation argues, are "part and parcel of the DDPD", therefore it would be a debasing for the international and regional communities that brokered the DDPD, to pick the document with tongs and throw it in the trash pin.

The African Union panel, thus, continues shuttling between the two sides trying to find a common ground, agreed upon, so that the technicalities will be overcome and the two sides sit down for business like negotiations.

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