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Sudan: Opportunity for Peace

AfricaFocus Bulletin
May 15, 2006 (060515)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"This is the triumph of Africa doing what it should be doing with the support of the international community. [but unless there is] the right spirit, the right attitude and the right disposition, this document will not be worth the paper it is written on." - Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, commenting on signature of peace agreement on Darfur

Among other provisions, the peace agreement requires the disarmament of the government-created Janjaweed militias that have been principally responsible for over 200,000 civilian deaths. But the obstacles include not only doubts that the government will implement the agreement and the failure of two of three rebel groups to sign, but also doubts whether the "international community" will provide either the resources or the continuing pressure needed for implementation. At present, stressed UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, even relief supplies are forcing relief agencies to cut rations in half for this month, and African Union peacekeeping need immediate additional support for the months it would take for new United Nations forces to arrive.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a commentary by Alex de Waal, an adviser to the African Union mediating team on the Darfur agreement; brief news updates from the UN's Integrated Regional Information Networks and the UN News Service; and a press release from Refugees International outlining needed additional action from the United States and other countries.

For earlier AfricaFocus Bulletins on Sudan, visit

For current news and commentary on Sudan, visit

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

Without Foreign Chancelleries and Hollywood's Finest, Can Darfur Peace Deal Succeed?

Alex de Waal*

* Alex de Waal is director, Justice Africa, and Senior Adviser to Salim Ahmed Salim, Chief African Union Mediator at the Darfur Peace Talks

Pambazuka News 254

Correction received from Pambazuka News, May 16, 2006

Dear Subscribers,

We have beeen informed that the article 'Without foreign chancelleries and Hollywood’s finest, can Darfur peace deal succeed?', carried in the features section of Pambazuka News 254, was written by Julie Flint and not, as previously indicated, by Alex de Waal.

It has also come to our attention that this article was first published in Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper,

The information published on Pambazuka News website has been accordingly corrected.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

The Editors
Pambazuka News

Additional Note from AfricaFocus Bulletin

Indepedent journalist Flint and Sudan specialist de Waal are co-authors of the recent book Darfur: A Short History of a Long War (London: Zed Books, 2006).

A peace deal to end three years of fighting, the death of tens of thousands and the flight of millions was signed last Friday between the Sudanese government and the main Darfur rebel faction. The next stage in the peace process will be on May 15, when the African Union meets in an attempt to persuade two other rebel factions to sign the peace deal and to discuss when the United Nations will take over peacekeeping duties from the African Union. Can the peace deal succeed? Alex de Waal weights its chances.

It took four years to negotiate an end to Mozambique's civil war. That peace, signed in 1992, has lasted until today. The Darfur Peace Agreement, which it was hoped would end the first genocide of the 21st century, was forced through in little more than a year. If it fails to end the conflict in western Sudan, it will be because of its process rather than its provisions. The process has been flawed from the beginning, and could be fatal at the last. The DPA may well be the best the people of Darfur can get in their present, miserable circumstances. But international pressure for a quick fix threatens to cripple it - and in so doing to condemn Darfurians to further suffering.

Defenders of the peace process that began in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, in mid-2004 before shifting to the Nigerian capital, Abuja, will argue that it lasted almost two years. On paper, yes. In truth, no. The first four rounds of the seven-round talks were dominated by the Sudan government's egregious violations of ceasefire agreements and the international community's failure to take a single meaningful step to stop them. When serious negotiation was finally engaged, the African Union mediation was almost as problematic as the rebel negotiators themselves. The mediation improved towards the end of 2005, but popular pressure from outside Darfur for armed intervention was by then encouraging a series of deadlines that culminated with a 30 April date set by the AU Peace and Security Council. The best of the AU's experts in Abuja believed April was unrealistic, off by a couple of months at least.

On 25 April, the AU presented its draft agreement. Previous deadlines had come and gone. But this one, astonishingly, was enforced (more or less). Officially, the parties had five days to take the agreement - or leave it. Five days, that is, for those able to read and understand English. Those who were dependent on the Arabic text, completed on 28 April, had only 48 hours. The people of Darfur, who will live or die by the agreement, know very little about it. They have not been party to the talks. No-one has explained the agreement to them. (Least of all the state-controlled media, which would not be permitted to mention the state's many concessions.) They do not know what it offers and what it doesn't - and, most importantly, why it doesn't. There is no individual compensation, they tell me. But there is. No timetable for the disarmament of the Janjaweed militias. But there is. No guarantees for implementation. But there are - inasmuch as there can be in the face of a government that will see implementation as defeat and will fight it every inch of the way.

This was never a people's peace, a peace that grew from within and had strong, deep roots. Today it is an imposed and partial peacebetween the Sudan government and the faction of the Sudan Liberation Army that is led by Minni Minawi, who represents 8% at most of the population of Darfur. It is already faltering: Darfurians are demonstrating against it in towns and displaced camps, recognizing in the signatories two narrowly-based parties who believe in domination through force and preferring continued struggle to what they believe is surrender. SLA Chairman Abdul Wahid Mohamed al Nur, until now the single most important rebel leader in terms of popular support as opposed to firepower, is insisting he will not sign, refusing sack- fulls of dollars intended to change his mind.

There are many in the Khartoum government who believe they can crush the movements by force and who, given half a chance, will try. Rushing an agreement that some factions still oppose could, in a worst-case scenario, give them that chance.

Interpretation of the DPA varies enormously. My own is that it is a pretty good deal. Not the best, perhaps, but not bad. The rebel movements have from the beginning suffered from delusions of grandeur. Unlike the southern rebels of the SPLA, they have not fought for 20 years. Their region is of little or no strategic importance: it has no water and it has no oil. The rebels themselves are divided, without a leader who can hold a candle to the SPLA's John Garang. Most importantly: they did not win the war. Their only asset was the support of the international community, and their comportment in Abuja - and in Darfur itself - has damaged that.

Even those who have rejected the agreement acknowledge that its security provisions are surprisingly good. The Sudan government must withdraw its forces from many areas it currently occupies, and must disarm the Janjaweed within five months - before the rebels even begin to lay down their guns. Guarantees include an independent advisory team that both Canada and Norway, outspoken critics of the Khartoum government, are keen to head up. The government must downsize the paramilitary Popular Defence Force and Border Guards in which Janjaweed have been hidden. The hated PDF must be abolished in three or four years. Thousands of rebels will be integrated into the Sudanese Armed Forces. Some will even be given command posts.

The agreement's weakest point, from Darfur's viewpoint, is its provisions for power-sharing. At the federal level, the rebel movements have won few concessions and have been refused the third place in the national hierarchy. But they have the fourth - in itself a gigantic step up. The government has won the battle to keep Darfur divided into three states, until a referendum on a single region, and controls 50% of state legislatures to the rebels' 30%, with 20% going to independents - a division that could, in reality, produce an anti- government majority. Critically, however, the movements will control the Transitional Darfur Regional Authority (TDRA) and annual income of hundreds of millions of dollars. It is the TDRA which will be the real power until elections. It will implement the peace agreement, supervise reconstruction and economic development, and help the return and resettlement of the refugees. All the TDRA's commission heads will be the movements' nominees.

The real, abiding concern is implementation. Because of the timetable, the implementing force will be the AU, which has been hopelessly under-resourced so far. UN troops may be accepted by Khartoum now the strongest rebel faction has signed the agreement, but they cannot arrive much before year-end. The threat of UN sanctions frightens no-one. What is most disturbing is the degree of eagle-eyed, unrelenting international pressure that will be needed to force Khartoum to do all the things it is refusing to do in South Sudan. Not just now, when the world's eyes are on Darfur, but in a few years time, when foreign chancelleries and Hollywood's finest may have shifted their attention to another crisis and another photo opportunity.

AU calls for UN troop support in Darfur

09 May 2006

United Nations Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)

Abuja, 9 May (IRIN) - The force commander of the African Union Mission in Darfur (AMIS) has urged a quick and significant deployment of United Nations troops in the troubled Sudanese region of Darfur to help implement a peace deal struck in the Nigerian capital late last week.

The groundbreaking deal, signed by Sudan and the biggest of the three rebel groups involved in the three-year conflict, provides for the disarmament of the Darfur rebels as well as Janjawid militia.

But with the current number of AMIS troops in Darfur now under 7,000 Major-General Collins Ihekire said help was needed. "Liberia has 15,000 (UN peacekeepers) and we have Darfur that is three times the size of Liberia - that is why we are calling on the international community to note this.

"Expand the current force by bringing in UN troops. The security of Darfur is of paramount importance to all of us now," he told a small group of reporters. AMIS will be responsible for disarming, encamping and demobilising rebel fighters. The Janjawid are expected to be dismantled by the Sudanese government.

After winning last-minute concessions from Khartoum at mammoth talks that lasted through the week in Abuja, the faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) led by Minni Minnawi bowed to international pressure and agreed "with reservations" to sign up to peace. But two smaller groups refused, demanding more concessions from Khartoum.

"Sign now and let peace reign," Ihekire urged both the rival SLM/A faction led by Abdul Wahid Mohamed el-Nur - who is from Darfur's largest tribe, the Fur, and thus a key player in the conflict - and the smaller Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).

AU officials said the two rebel factions had until 15 May to sign on to the deal, clinched after more than two years of talks in Abuja.

And at Friday's signing ceremony, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who played a decisive role in wresting a peace deal, appealed to the dissenters to reconsider. "Those who feel unable to sign today, we will continue to appeal to them, to address them to see the reason why they need to sign on behalf of the people they claim to lead."

Commenting Monday on fears that the refusal of the two groups will scupper the accord, General Ihekire said: "We are watching for those who will want war and a continuous fight [and] we are welcoming the idea of sending in the UN troops because we want all hands to be on deck."

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland, who is in the region, this weekend too called for the strengthening of the AU peacekeeping force ahead of a planned deployment of a UN mission in the Darfur region, where conditions among civilians displaced by conflict have deteriorated as violence escalated.

"We need a real strengthening of the AU force in the interim period," Egeland said after visiting the town of Gereida in South Darfur.

The pan-African body on 10 March extended the mandate of the African Union Mission in Sudan until 30 September, after which it would transfer the operation to the UN. However, the Sudanese government has been reluctant to allow the deployment of UN troops to its territory.

The UN estimates that 3.6 million people are affected by conflict in Darfur, of whom 1.8 million are internally displaced and 200,000 have fled to neighbouring Chad. More than 200,000 people have been killed as a result of violence between the Sudanese government and rebel movements.

Last Friday's signing in Abuja, which opened a fresh ceasefire on the ground, ended with a note of high drama when a splinter group from el-Nur's SLM/A faction suddenly broke away to join the peace camp. The group was led by Abdulrahman Musa.

Obasanjo called the signing a "defining moment" and said: "This is the triumph of Africa doing what it should be doing with the support of the international community."

But he warned that unless there is "the right spirit, the right attitude and the right disposition this document will not be worth the paper it is written on."

No time to lose in setting up UN force for Sudan's Darfur region Annan

United Nations

9 May 2006 - United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called on the world community to follow up on last week's peace accord between the Sudanese Government and the main rebel group in Darfur by establishing a muscular UN peacekeeping force and providing immediate aid to prevent hundreds of thousands more people dying.

"There is a vast amount to be done, and no time to lose," Mr. Annan told a special ministerial meeting of the Security Council called to consider the latest developments what he called the world's worst humanitarian crisis, in which fighting between the Government, pro-government militias and rebels has killed at least 180,000 people and uprooted 2 million more in the last three years.

He said he had already written to Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir seeking his support for a visit by an assessment team to help setting up a UN force and he hoped very soon to be able to discuss it with him directly. "His support for this vital mission is essential," Mr. Annan added.

Until now Sudan has opposed the establishment of such a force but said it was prepared to discuss UN involvement after the conclusion of a peace accord in the talks in Abuja, Nigeria, where the agreement with the largest rebel force was reached last week.

"No less urgent is the need to raise more money for emergency relief," Mr. Annan told the 15-member body. "Without massive and immediate support, the humanitarian agencies will be unable to continue their work, which means that hundreds of thousands more will die from hunger, malnutrition and disease."

A pledging conference will be held, possibly in Brussels, early next month. "But I appeal to donors not to wait for that conference," he said. "They need to be very generous, starting right now. We cannot afford to lose a single day."

The main plank in following up the Abuja agreement is the transition from the current 7,000-strong African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) to a much larger UN force, though Mr. Annan said the immediate priority must be to strengthen AMIS to implement essential elements of the accord and provide real security for the displaced people.

"But I believe we all now agree that this can only be a stopgap measure, and that as soon as possible AMIS must be transformed into a larger and more mobile United Nations operation, better equipped and with a stronger mandate. We are now mobilizing all our energies to make that happen," he added.

"Let's not underestimate the challenge that this implies. Helping to protect the people of Darfur and to implement the Abuja agreement will be one of the biggest tests this Organization has ever faced - perhaps the biggest since those in Somalia, Rwanda and Bosnia in the early 1990s," he said. "But it is a challenge we cannot refuse. And, having accepted it, we cannot delay."

Mr. Annan noted the immediate pitfalls on the way, including the failure of two small rebel movements to sign the Abuja accord and yesterday's attack in a refugee camp in Darfur in which an AMIS staff member was killed after a visit there by UN Humanitarian Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland.

Added the Secretary-General, "we must do everything in our power to ensure that those who have signed the agreement actually implement it on the ground, and that the people of Darfur can survive the next few months."

The Council called on all the parties to respect their commitments and implement the agreement without delay, and urged those movements that have not signed the agreement to do so without delay.

In a statement read out by Foreign Minister Rodolphe Adada of the Republic of Congo, which holds the rotating presidency for May, the Council urged Mr. Annan to provide at the earliest opportunity detailed planning proposals for a UN operation in Darfur and called on the Sudanese Government to facilitate immediately the visit of a joint UN and African Union (AU) technical assessment.

It also asked Mr. Annan to consult urgently with potential troop contributing counties, stressed that a UN operation should have strong African participation and character, and called on international and regional organizations and Member States to afford the operation every possible assistance.

Darfur Peace Agreement Requires Continued US Engagement to Succeed

May 10, 2005

Contact: Megan Fowler, 202-828-0110 x214 or

Refugees International

Refugees International welcomes the signature of the Darfur Peace Agreement in Abuja on May 5, 2006, and commends the US government for its substantial commitment, especially through the presence and engagement of Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, to ensure that an agreement was reached. On the matters of civilian protection and returns, several key issues have been agreed upon, including the disarmament and demobilization of the Janjaweed militia, the integration of the rebel groups into the armed forces, and the creation of buffer zones around camps for internally displaced persons. Other important elements of the agreement include the establishment of commissions to oversee the rehabilitation of Darfur and compensation to the war-affected, with the Government of Sudan indicating that it will contribute an initial $30 million to a compensation fund.

The agreement in Abuja is only a first step, a necessary but insufficient condition for the creation of peace and stability in Darfur. With one faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement refusing to sign, and Minni Minawi's SLM faction already attempting to distance itself from the agreement, the risks of spoilers and non-compliance are high. Agreements in the past have been flouted by all sides, including the Government of Sudan. There have already been demonstrations by internally displaced persons in Darfur against the peace agreement, resulting in an attack on the African Union civilian police and the death of a Sudanese translator.

Above and beyond questions of compliance and good-will, the following steps need to take place over the next few months in order to improve the situation for the people of Darfur:

  • Increase humanitarian assistance. There is still a serious shortfall in funding for humanitarian assistance, most critically with regards to food. Rations in Darfur have been halved from 2,100 calories a day (the minimum required to stay in good health) to 1,050 calories in order to stretch the food stocks through the rainy season. Over the last several days, the US has reported that it has directed immediate resources to Sudan; much of this assistance, however, had already been requested by the Administration in February. European donors also need to increase their contributions to equal that of the US.
  • Get UN troops to Darfur. To date, the government of Sudan has resisted all attempts to allow for the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) to transition to a UN peacekeeping mission, despite the AU in principle authorizing such a handover. Sudan has insisted it would consider a transition only after a peace agreement was in place. Signals from Khartoum have been mixed, but now is the time to move forward. Taking into consideration the May 15 AU Peace and Security Council meeting, where a transition to a UN force should be authorized, RI would like to see the UN Security Council work as quickly as possible to introduce a resolution to expand the mandate of UNMIS to include Darfur.
  • Strengthen AMIS. AMIS, which is already under-funded and overstretched, has been given an important verification and monitoring role in the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement. Any proposed UN mission will not be in place until near the end of this year. The AMIS donor's conference, which had been postponed, needs to be held this month. Major donors, such as the US, need to transform pledges into commitments and AMIS needs full and immediate logistical assistance from NATO.

With the signing of the agreement, there is momentum to move forward. Over two million people have been living in desperate conditions for nearly three years. Nevertheless, it is important that donors and the Sudanese government do not pressure the people of Darfur into hasty returns. A year and a half ago the Sudanese government forced displaced persons to return to their villages as proof that the situation was stabilizing. In August of 2005, donors and UN agencies planned for major returns in 2006 because of projected funding cuts and an overly optimistic analysis of the humanitarian and security situation in Darfur.

The US has made many pledges, promises and commitments over the past several days to the rebel parties, to the Sudanese government, and to the people of Darfur. The signature of accords in Abuja is just the beginning; the role of the US in bringing peace to Darfur is not yet over.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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