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17-10-2007

DARFUR OPPOSITION MOVEMENTS IN INTENSIVE PREPARATIONS FOR PEACE TALKS

The two major opposition groups in Darfur that did not sign the 2006 proposal for a peace agreement have united their forces in preparation for the upcoming peace talks. A further round of negotiations between the government of Sudan and the opposition groups is to be held in Tripoli, Libya, later this month. Senior leaders and experts from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM/A) led by Ahmed Al Alshafi met at the European Centre for Minority Issues in Flensburg, Germany to prepare constructive, joint positions to be put forward during the talks that have been called by the United Nations and the African Union.

The proposal of May 2006 was put forward at the seventh round of the prolonged peace talks held in Abuja, Nigeria. It was endorsed by only one faction of the SLM/A. The other parties rejected the deal, which was put forward by the African Union mediators without offering the opportunity for further discussion, as being heavily biased in favour of the Sudan government. The government of Sudan has allegedly sponsored and directed the violent campaign of displacement and possible genocide against the civilian population in Darfur, leading to some 200.000 deaths and 2 million refugees.

In preparation for the upcoming talks, the JEM and SLM started to develop their own proposals on how to have fair, inclusive and comprehensive agreement that can address the root causes of the conflict in Darfur and to end the suffering of the population permanently. Only such an agreement, it was argued, can lead to the establishment of a fully democratic Sudan based on the rule of law and human rights for all. Topics discussed included the question of the establishment of a regional identity for the three federal constituent states of Darfur, the problem of the political representation of Darfur in the central government institutions, wealth-sharing, human rights and democratization. The delegates from both movements were supported in this venture by a team of senior legal and policy advisors drawn from leading universities and expert institutions, including the University of Cambridge, which has maintained a long-standing programme of support for the settlement of self-determination conflicts around the world. The event was held at the headquarters of European Centre for Minority Issues in Flensburg, Germany—an international expert organization addressing ethno-political conflicts in Europe and elsewhere.

At the conclusion of the Flensburg meeting, Senior spokesman for the JEM, Ahmed Hussain Adam, stated: ‘We are ready to work with the international community on finally bringing a peace settlement to the desperate people of the Darfur region. We call on governments to increase the pressure on the government of Sudan that will be necessary in order to come to balanced settlement that respects the unity of the country, while addressing the grievances of the Darfurian population.’

Mr Gaffar Monro, spokesperson for the SLM/A added ‘The time has come to insist on a termination of violence and oppression in Darfur. At this initial meeting, both movements have shown their capacity and willingness to work constructively towards a settlements. In the very near future, the SLM/A expects to consolidate its position on all relevant issues among all groups associated with it, in order to enable both movements to exhibit a unified front in the talks.’

Both movements joined in calling for the arrangement of a further preparatory meeting involving the two movements and representatives of other stakeholder groups from the region in order to refine a unified position. This meeting, they indicated, must be held in a confidential way, not under the spotlight of the international mediators or the Sudan government, with full access by the groups to their own advisors and experts. The two opposition groups also called on the mediators, Mr Jan Eliasson from the United Nations, and Dr Salim Ahmed Salim representing the African Union, to adopt a more balanced approach in the upcoming talks, paying equal regard to the concerns of the representatives of the people of Darfur. They expressed the willingness and wish of their leaders to engage in preliminary consultations with both mediators with a view to discussing the format, participants and agenda for the Tripoli negotiations.

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