An interesting piece on Bloomberg today featured U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan Scott Gration discussing the ongoing Darfur peace talks in the context of upcoming national elections scheduled for April. As Gration put it, “We have this little window where we really need to get the framework solidified,” said Gration.
Gration is correct that the national election will demand a great deal of time and attention from both the international community and the Sudanese government, and that there are “going to be a lot of things that are keeping us from focusing on Darfur.” Key international actors will also be increasingly eager to put Darfur on a back burner as we get closer to the independence referendum for South Sudan in January 2011.
Yet previous attempts to reach a peace deal for Darfur suggest that the most important thing is to strike a comprehensive peace agreement that can be practically implemented and effectively monitored. This remains a far more important over-arching goal than trying to shoe horn in an agreement before the April election or trying to throw a quick deal together that will not stand the test of time. A lasting peace for Darfur involves lots of complicated issues: refugee and displaced returns, compensation for victims; accountability, what to do with rebel weapons and government militias, power-sharing, and more. It is important to remember that at the end of the day, elections are part of the peace process – not the other way around.
We hope to have some more insights into the ongoing talks between the government of Sudan and the Justice and Equality Movement in the next several days, so stay tuned.