Home | News    Wednesday 24 February 2010

Sudan and JEM rebels agree to sign a final deal for peace in Darfur

February 23, 2010 (DOHA) — Amin Hassan Omer, the top government negotiator, and Ahmed Tugud, head of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) delegation to the peace talks, signed today in Doha a peace framework for a final peace between Sudan and Darfur’s main rebel group.

Sudan's top negotiator Amin Hassan Omer (L) and JEM representative Ahmed Tugod sign an agreement in Doha February 23, while Al-Mahmoud (L) of Qatar and joint mediator Bassole sit besides them (photo QNA)The signing ceremony was attended by President Omer Al-Bashir, the Chadian President Idriss Deby, and the Eritrean President as well as the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. Deby’s presence was seen as an important signal of the link between the signed deal and the normalization process engaged in recently with Sudan.

The 12-point deal provides a ceasefire agreement between the two parties to be implemented starting from Wednesday, 24 February, but also a commitment to finalize a peace agreement outlined in the framework agreement.

Sources speak about unannounced clauses agreed between the two parties dealing with power sharing as the bilateral deal comes after the Abuja peace deal signed with Minni Minnawi in Abuja four years ago. Also it should be followed by a separate deal with other groups present in Doha but not included in today’s agreement.

This marks the first important step since the Abuja agreement; meanwhile, another popular rebel group – the Sudan Liberation Movement led by Abdel Wahid Al-Nur (SLM-AW) — refuses to negotiate with the government asking it first to disarm government-backed militia prior to any talks.

The breakthrough deal nonetheless makes obvious that the continuing state of fragmentation among an array of the non-signatory rebel groups may weaken their position and lead them to reconsider their demands. JEM and SLM-AW refused in May 2006 to sign a peace agreement, since it did conform to their demands for one sole administrative region in Darfur, individual compensation, and important representation in the central government and the other regions.

Feeling the damage that could be generated by the separate talks, Khalil Ibrahim, JEM leader urged the other groups to join hands with his movement and negotiate as one delegation.

"I call on my brothers in the other movements to (come together) in an overall partnership at the service of our country and say, let us unite and commit ourselves together and at the same time to peace," said Khalil Ibrahim at the signing ceremony before to embrace President Omer Al-Bashir.

The peace deal speaks without details about permanent political partnership between the National Congress Party (NCP) and JEM which, in accordance with the Doha framework accord, would become "a political party as soon as the final agreement is signed between the two parties".

The Sudanese President, who remitted death sentences on over one hundred JEM fighters in Khartoum before travelling to Doha said the framework agreement is "an important step toward ending war and the conflict in Darfur."

The deal despite the fact it was negotiated secretly in Ndjamena is a real breakthrough for the mediation which sought Deby’s intervention to break the deadlocked consultations between the rebels over the unity issue.

Former South Africa President Thabo Mbeki was last week touring African capitals reportedly seeking support to take over the Darfur dossier from the current UN-AU mediator Djibril Bassole, stressing that he can do more than the latter to push the parties toward talks.

The Emir of Qatar, who is keen to host the talks in Doha and to conclude an agreement there pledged to give one billion US dollar for Darfur rehabilitation and reconstruction. Qatar is already committed in humanitarian action on the ground.

Previously the Sudanese government and JEM rebels signed a goodwill agreement but they failed to implement it after Khartoum refusal to release JEM fighters. This occurred about a year ago.

Sudan will hold within nearly two months general elections including presidential, legislative and regional levels. The NCP and the SPLM insist on April as the date for the poll which is part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005.

But JEM rebels demand the delay of elections, adding it would be difficult to sign a final peace agreement before 15 March as it is stipulated in the framework agreement.