7 May 2006
The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland begins a five-day assessment visit to Sudan’s troubled Darfur region Sunday May 7. He is scheduled to hold talks with local leaders and the Sudanese government as well as pay visits to refugee camps in a region he once described as hosting “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world”.
His visit comes on the heels of the signing (in Abuja, Nigeria) of a peace treaty between the Sudanese government and the main Darfur rebel movement (SLM) to end three years of bloody civil war. An earlier visit in April was aborted when the Sudanese government refused to give permission to Egeland to visit Darfur. At weekend, the UN Secretary General Koffi Annan called on the Sudanese government to issue visas to a team of UN assessors so that they could begin laying the groundwork for the arrival of an international peacekeeping force to replace the 7000-member AU force. Khartoum had earlier insisted that she could only permit a UN peacekeeping force on her soil only after a peace deal had been signed.
Negotiations to end the conflict were initiated by the African Union two years ago and no agreement was signed by the time the deadline to end the talks elapsed last week. The deadline was twice moved forward and the British and Americans came in to reinforce the AU negotiators headed by Ahmed Salim Salim. After a lot of persuasion and possibly arm twisting, the main rebel Movement, and the Sudanese government agreed to sign the document ‘with reservations’ while two smaller splinter rebel movements balked.
The main points in the signed agreement (to end the conflict that has caused the death of more than 200,000 people and displaced over two million) include; Compensation for those forced to flee their homes, the disarming of the pro-government Janjaweed militia, the integration of most of the rebel fighters into the national army and the formation of a temporary regional government in the Darfur.
The smaller faction of the Sudanese Liberation Movement and also The Justice and Equality Movement rejected the agreement citing the lack of trust in the security and power sharing arrangements and also voicing their dissatisfaction over the share of national wealth allocated to the Darfur region. Observers wonder how this ‘incomplete’ agreement will be practically implemented leaving out the ‘dissidents’ in the rebel camp.
Njei Moses Timah