Source: Radio Dabanga
The first round of informal negotiations between the Sudanese government and two holdout Darfur rebel movements in Dberzi in Ethiopia concluded today with “little progress”.
After two days of direct informal talks under the auspices of the AU, the government, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), and the Sudan Liberation Movement led by Minni Minawi (SLM-MM) announced in a joint statement that they agreed to continue negotiations at a later date, to be determined by the mediator.
In an interview with Radio Dabanga, Minawi said that the leaders of both rebel movements demanded the government to stop the ongoing military campaign in Jebel Marra, and in West and North Darfur. They also demanded the stop of the referendum on the administrative status of Darfur scheduled for April.
The rebel leader said that the informal negotiation round witnessed minor breakthroughs, “such as direct talks with government representatives without the presence of a broker, the exchange of the positions of the other party, and the agreement to assign military experts to deal with technical issues relating to the location of the movements”.
Minawi further said that the informal meeting in Dberzi did not discuss any political issue. “It rather focused on stopping the war first and then address the humanitarian issues. We committed ourselves not to tackle any political issue until we have reached a breakthrough in the security and humanitarian files.”
Both rebel movements are still working on the position paper they will present to the Qatari mediators, “about a common ground on which the Darfur peace talks could be based, that lead to a comprehensive solution of Sudan’s problem in Darfur”.
The next sessions will be held in the presence of the AU mediation team and representatives of the Qatar government. Yet, Minawi stressed that “all of us committed ourselves to be partners in the coming peace agreement, which will not be the 2011 Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD). “The Doha Document is dead and filled with death,” he added.
The DDPD was signed in the Qatari capital in July 2011, by the Sudanese government and the Liberation and Justice Movement, a coalition of 19 breakaway factions of the Darfur rebel movements formed the year before. JEM-Sudan, a split-off of the mainstream JEM, joined the agreement in 2013.
Khartoum adheres to its standpoint that the holdout Darfur rebel movements are to join the DDPD, and has categorically rejected other proposals.
The third main Darfur rebel movement, the Sudan Liberation Movement of Abdelwahid El Nur (SLM-AW) categorically rejects joining negotiations before the government has disarmed the militiamen in the region and the rule of law has been restored.
Ahmed Adam Bakheet, JEM Vice-President told Radio Dabanga that the informal negotiations with the government have made little progress.
“We agreed to continue the discussions at a later date, following the submission of our position paper to the Qatari delegation.”
The joint statement today stresses the willingness of the Sudanese government and the two Darfur rebel movements to move forward with the negotiations, and their commitment to a peaceful solution, noting that the round was confined to humanitarian and security issues.
The warring parties confirmed their intent to “continue the negotiations and informal meetings in order to reach an agreement leading to peace in Darfur”, and to “contribute to a sustainable peace in Sudan by the participation in the National Dialogue”.
Both sides identified points of contention during “a thorough and serious debate to reach understandings on these issues”. They further agreed to study the document submitted by the AU mediation team during the former negotiation round in November last year.
At the end of the Dberzi negotiations, the government delegation announced Khartoum’s rejection of rebel demands concerning the halting of the Darfur referendum and the military offensive on Jebel Marra and surroundings.
The government delegation stated that the military operations in Jebel Marra are the consequences of “the government’s constitutional duty to secure [the region] and protect the citizens” in the area.
The offensive targets the SLM-AW in Jebel Marra, which is not party to the peace talks. The government delegates further stressed that the army and militia troops take care not to harm the civilians living in the area.
As for the Darfur referendum, Khartoum will continue with the process, which it considers “a constitutional commitment that has to be implemented”.