Sudan makes sudden exit from Doha talks, rebels say ‘suspicious’
The government official in charge of the Darfur file, Dr. Ghazi Salah Al Din, yesterday at a televised news conference in Doha said that the delegation will leave for Doha on Friday. However, Ghazi himself was back in Khartoum yesterday, Sudan TV reported. Ghazi clarified that the government is still open to continuing talks within Sudan.
Col. Jaber Hassabullah, the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) negotiator on the security file, considered the government’s withdrawal from the Doha negotiations as “strange and suspicious,” and a deliberate way of returning to war. He told Radio Dabanga that the movement was ready for that.
International mediators, led by Qatari State Minister Al Mahmoud and UN-African Union Joint Mediator Djibril Bassolé, never yet presented the final version of the proposed peace deal to the parties at the talks. Ghazi said that if they receive the final agreement from the mediation team, they will not consider signing it until presenting it to the Darfurian people through a mechanism called the Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation, an AU-spearheaded ‘civil society’ effort created by the 2006 Abuja Agreement.
This unexpected suggestion was explained as a way to avoid repeating the past experience of non-comprehensive peace efforts. The African Union would organize the dialogue event in mid January, Ghazi suggested.
Sudan’s withdrawal from the Doha Forum follows an ultimatum given Wednesday by President Omar Al Bashir, who told a rally in Nyala, “If we reach an agreement tomorrow, praise be to God. But if there is no agreement, we will withdraw our negotiating team and the talks will then be held in Darfur.”
Although Ghazi explained yesterday that “we have been at Doha for two years,” the rationale for the withdrawal is not entirely clear. What is clear is that the delegation departs on orders from President Bashir. Possibly the move signals the end of peace negotiations with the movements – who are too divided to come to the table together – and a turn to the government’s stated strategy of “peace from within.”
The Justice and Equality Movement, represented by its spokesman Ahmed Hussein Adam in Doha, considered the withdrawal from the Doha talks “a declaration of a new war in Darfur and the destruction of all international and regional efforts that seek to find a just and comprehensive solution to the problem of Darfur.” JEM is the most heavily armed of Darfur’s rebel movements. It recently announced a merger with other factions into the Alliance of Resistance Forces (ARF). The alliance fought jointly in the recent battles for Shangil Tobaya Locality, according to rebel military spokesmen.
JEM was engaged in ceasefire talks in Doha, but the two sides could not agree. Omer Adam Rahma, the spokesman of the government delegation, blamed JEM for the failure to reach a ceasefire agreement. A compromise proposed by the mediation failed when each side held their position. The government spokesman accused the Justice and Equality Movement of not wanting a comprehensive ceasefire in Darfur. He described the gap between the two sides’ positions as significant and substantial.
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