Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Sudan/Darfur: talks to start tomorrow in Addis

The two groups fighting the government in Darfur are ...
  • Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A)
  • Justice and Equality Movement (JEM)

    Government representatives will meet with SLM and JEM representatives tomorrow in Addis Ababa for talks sponsored by the African Union (AU). On the agenda ...
    The talks Thursday will look at the political, economic and social issues that triggered the conflict, as well as at immediate measures aimed at implementing a ceasefire agreement inked in April and at alleviating the refugee situation, diplomatic sources said Tuesday. (source)
    About two weeks ago, JEM had threatened not to attend the Addis talks because it hadn't had a hand in deciding the date/location of the talks ... and because the existing ceasefire agreement is not being fully honoured. So we'll see if they actually show up.

    And according to this story from the Sudan News Agency, "the sole accredited mediator so far is the Chadian President, Idris Deby." If this account is accurate, then nothing has changed and the representatives from the AU, EU, UN, Britain, France and the US who are expected to attend the talks will still just have observer status.

    The April 8 ceasefire, signed by the two rebel groups and the government, was negotiated in N’Djamena, Chad, and was mediated by Deby. According to the International Crisis Group, both SLM and JEM "consider Chad too friendly with the Khartoum government to be a neutral mediator."1 On the surface this might seem counterintuitive as President Deby is himself a Zaghawa and the SLM and JEM draw support from the Zaghawa, Messalit and Fur ethnic groups. However, there is a fair bit of inter-clan rivalry among the Zaghawa and you can't assume there is Zaghawa solidarity (can't remember where I read this). An account that seems to bear this out ...
    The "final" version [of the April 8 ceasefire agreement] did not include a number of points previously agreed to, including several SLA/JEM amendments. When the parties brought this to President Deby's attention, he reassured them the draft would be fixed after the signing ceremony but pleaded with them to sign immediately because the media was waiting.

    The rebel negotiators were naive in believing the assurances. The draft was not subsequently changed. The copy of the ceasefire agreement made public was that which President Deby had convinced the parties to sign. The SLA and JEM have themselves to blame for putting their signatures to a document that was so evidently not ready for implementation.2
    NOTE: The April 8 agreement is 45-day renewable ceasefire.

    There were a few reports that JEM and government representatives were holding talks in Paris June 22-28. Can't tell you much about it. I haven't been able to find a report that confirms that the talks went ahead as scheduled ... let alone find a report that details the outcome of the talks.

    1 & 2: Sudan: Now or Never in Darfur. (23 May 2004). International Crisis Group.