Thursday, February 05, 2004

Sudan: Darfur rebels announce they're ready to talk

Two Darfur rebel groups and a political party have offered to talk to the government.
In a joint statement, the Sudanese Liberation Movement, the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Federal Democratic Alliance said they would participate in two days of talks at the [Henry Dunant] Center for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva, beginning Feb. 14.

... Government officials were not immediately available for comment on the proposed talks.
There is a bit more detail in this Reuters story. The talks are meant to negotiate humanitarian access -- to find some way to get UN aid workers and their stockpile of desperately needed food and medicine to those refugees who have fled (and are fleeing) the fighting in Darfur. The UN says the situation is unsafe and wants a ceasefire. But ...
... the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), said a ceasefire was a political issue and they would not agree to a truce for purely humanitarian reasons.

[But the Henry Dunant Centre said there were alternatives to a ceasefire like a "conflict pause" or safe-passage guarantees.]

JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim said he would personally attend the talks if the government sent a high-level delegation. JEM has not taken part in talks or any ceasefire with Khartoum.

The other group, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), said it would go to Geneva, adding political issues could be raised.

The Henry Dunant Centre said it had a mandate only to mediate on humanitarian issues, but did not rule out that political issues could also be discussed between the sides.

JEM said the government recently approached them through Ahmed Ibrahim Diraige, leader of an opposition political movement also invited to Geneva, to discuss peace talks.
Ahmed Ibrahim Diraige [Draij] is leader of the Sudan Federal Democratic Alliance. Recall that Diraige met with Sudan VP Taha in Kenya late last month and promised to use his influence to bring an end to the fighting in Darfur.

Note: If you look up top, I characterized Diraige's group as a "political party". It is my short hand ... the Sudan Federal Democratic Alliance is most often billed as a national political and military movement ... its leadership is from Darfur.

The goverment and the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement had once reached a ceasefire agreement. But efforts to negotiate an extension, hosted by Chad, failed in December.