1 May 2006
The deadline for a peace treaty to be signed between the Darfur rebels fighting the Sudanese government and their allied Janjaweed militia elapsed Sunday April 30th at 23 hours GMT with no deal done. The talks that have been going on for two years in Abuja, Nigeria were extended for another 48 hours following the refusal of the rebels to append their signatures on the document that the Sudanese government has already agreed to sign. African Union chief negotiator, Salim Ahmed Salim said; “We have to stop the clock for the next 48 hours to allow the parties to hold more talks.” Adding, “If we walk away from here without a peace deal, the world will not forgive us”.
The draft agreement calls for a first time disbursement of $300 million by the Sudanese government to the “historically deprived” Darfur region in 2006 and subsequent payments of $200million in 2007 and 2008 respectively. It also calls for a comprehensive ceasefire and for the government of Sudan to neutralize and control the Janjaweed. The rebels will have to disarm and most of them integrated into the national army. Ahmed Hussein, spokesman for the small Justice and Equality Movement (Jem) rejected the agreement saying that it favoured the Sudanese government and failed to address the “minimum demands” of his group. The rebels’ demands for the post of vice president and an increase of national assembly seats of the region from 55 to 99 were rejected.
The Darfur Crisis was brought into the limelight at weekend when rallies were organized in at least 30 U.S and Canadian cities to raise public awareness to the plight of the “genocide” victims of Sudan. Speakers at the rallies included congressmen and celebrities led by actor George Clooney who had just retuned from a fact-finding trip to Sudan. NGOs caring for the Darfuri refugees had last week announced that food rations for those in the camps were to be cut by 50% because of inadequate funding from donors.
The struggle between black Africans and the Arabs in Sudan’s Western Darfur region for the control of land and water boiled over into full-scale war in 2003. The Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) and other movements rose up in arms against the Arab-led government in Khatoum, accusing it of neglecting and subjugating their people. In response, the government unleashed the army and allegedly armed the Janjaweed (an Arab tribal militia) that wrecked havoc on Darfur villages. More than three hundred villages were burnt, thousands of women raped, 200,000 people killed and close to three million displaced internally and some to neighbouring countries especially Chad. The then U.S secretary of State Collin Powell termed the atrocities (mostly carried out by the Janjaweed) as “genocide”.
Sudan and Chad have been at each other’s throats trading accusations that each of them is harbouring rebels that are fighting the other. The government of Idris Deby in Chad recently survived (with the aid of France) incursions from Chadian rebels that are using the Darfur region as an arrear base to launch attacks on N’Djamena. Chad has a presidential election May 3 that the opposition intends to boycott. Already some Chadians are reportedly fleeing into neighbouring Cameroon ahead of the day of the controversial elections in which Idris Deby has manipulated the constitution to permit him run for a third term.
The degree of the pacification of the Sudan/Chad border and indeed the central African region will certainly depend to a large extent on what happens in Abuja on May 2 and in N’Djamena on May 3.
Njei Moses Timah