Darfur peace talks and civil society consultations are expected to resume later this month as conflicting accounts from the ground – those describing both a fragile calm and spreading violence – have emerged.
AU-UN Chief Mediator for Darfur Djibril Bassolé expressed optimism over what the talks will bring, saying to AFP yesterday , “Doha will be the venue of the negotiations and the end of the Darfur crisis.”
Talks are set to begin on January 18 in Doha, starting with consultations between rebels and civil society members. Formal negotiations are projected to start January 24.
Both Bassolé and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner also expressed confidence that rebel leader Abdel Wahid Mohammed Nur would come to the table. Abdel Wahid, leader of one of the main Darfuri rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army, has consistently refused to participate in peace talks in the past.
“He is not on his way to Doha but he won’t rule out” going there, the mediator said. He added that Abdel Wahid “is a powerful symbol of liberation” and can play a useful role in the negotiations.
Another previously intransigent rebel leader, Ahmed Abdel Shafi of the Sudan Liberation Movement, also declared he would participate in the talks.
Enough Advisor Omer Ismail offered a more measured assessment of how negotiations will unfold in Doha.
“I don’t think a breakthrough is going to happen. However, it is important to have all the parties in one place so they will start talking to each other, even if informally, about the way forward,” he said. “Discussion will mainly be procedural in nature, revolving around declarations of principles and rules of the game, rather than substantive issues.”
Check back next week for coverage on these crucial talks.
Photo: Women in Darfur collect firewood.