Sudan rivals to meet to end decade-long Darfur war

Sudan rivals to meet to end decade-long Darfur war
Thabo Mbeki of the African Union leads efforts to bring Sudan rivals together, as rebel leader says that Sudan is on the "verge of collapse".
3 min read
24 November, 2014
The Sudanese government and rebels have fought in Darfur for over ten years (AFP)
African mediators brought Sudan's government and rebels from Darfur province together on Sunday in an attempt to end over a decade of war, as insurgents warned that the country was close to "collapse".

The former South African president Thabo Mbeki, now the African Union's chief mediator, called for a cessation of hostilities between the government and two rebel factions, part of wider efforts to stem multiple rebellions across Sudan.

Previous talks over many years have made little if any change to the conflict in the arid, western region that the UN says has killed 300,000 and forced two million from their homes.

"There can't be anyone in Sudan
     There can't be anyone in Sudan who would benefit from these conflicts.
- Thabo Mbeki, AU chief mediator
who would benefit from these conflicts," said Mbeki, speaking at AU headquarters in Ethiopia.

"It is important that everything should be done to end all the violent conflicts around the country... so as to facilitate national dialogue," Mbeki added.

Rebels, who took up arms in 2003, accuse Khartoum's Arab-dominated government of marginalisation.

Government delegation leader Amin Hassan Omer stressed Khartoum's "faithful committment... to reach an agreement on a ceasefire."

But rebel chiefs were skeptical the government wants peace.

Minni Minnawi, who coordinates the rebel Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) coalition, accused Khartoum of "atrocities at the level of genocide" and said Sudan "is on the verge of collapse".

Rebel chief Mohamed Gebreil, of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), said he was doubtful the government really wanted to end the war.

"Though there are many elements
     We... call on the ICC to step up its efforts to bring the criminals who committed crimes before justice.
- Minni Minnawi, SRF
to the conflict in Darfur, the heart of the solution is relatively simple - government support for a legitimate peace process," Gebreil said.

"Even now, the government continues to define the problems in Darfur through a purely military lens and pursue only military options to address issues," he added.

President Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes committed in Darfur, and Minnawi demanded he face trial.

"Delayed justice is denied justice," Minnawi added. "We therefore call on the ICC to step up its efforts to bring the criminals who committed crimes before justice."

Earlier this month Sudan's government met with rebels from South Kordofan and Blue Nile, part of the SRF coalition. Mediators said the week of talks were "positive" but no deal was struck.

Fighting there erupted shortly before South Sudan split from Sudan in 2011.

Turabi: Dialogue only way out for Sudan

Meanwhile, Hassan al-Turabi, the head of the Popular Congress party and a prominent Sudanese opposition leader, said that the only thing uniting the country's opposition parties was a shared "hatred" for the country's ruling system.

Speaking at a public meeting in Khartoum on Sunday evening, Turabi said that "if the person that unites them dies or falls, then nothing else after that will unite them," referring to Bashir.

Turabi, who served as speaker of parliament before falling out with Bashir and serving time in prison, called for the opposition to take part in a national dialogue conference announced by Bashir last January, and said that the opposition's inability to depose the regime has meant that his party has to accept the invitation for the sake of the country.

The success of the conference was the only way to prevent the break-up of Sudan, Turabi added.