Darfur peace talks due to commence today were postponed once again. The meeting in Qatar between the Sudanese government and Darfur rebels met a familiar roadblock: divisions within rebel groups.
Despite efforts by U.S. special envoy Scott Gration, Darfur rebels remain split and uncooperative, with as many as 20 different factions existing, said one AFP article. The Justice and Equality Movement, or JEM, told AFP that rebel unity is a prerequisite for coming to the table: “We cannot have discussions in Doha if there is no unity. The best way to launch peace talks is to begin with the JEM.”
Abdel Wahid Mohammed Nur, leader of one faction of rebels known as the Sudanese Liberation Army, refuses to participate in the talks—a stance he’s held since the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement in 2006.
As argued in Enough’s paper on a political settlement for Darfur, a substantive peace proposal must be presented before rebel groups have the motivation to participate in talks as a unified front. The view that rebel unity has to be achieved before the details of the peace proposal can be worked out has only stalled negotiations.
One positive development in the efforts towards peace today: In place of talks between the Sudanese government and Darfur rebels, representatives of civil society, including members of the diaspora, are meeting in Doha to weigh in on the peace process. These consultations are a step forward in including various interests and perspectives of the people of Darfur in the peace negotiations—an inclusion that we hope the international community will insist on when talks actually begin.
Photo: Leader in a camp for displaced people in Riyad settlement (Doug Mercado)