Fresh round of Darfur peace talks to start next month

United Nations-backed mediation talks aimed at resolving the long-running conflict in Darfur between the Sudanese Government and the region’s armed movements will resume late next month, it was announced.
The talks will not start until the last week of October, given the time needed for the many armed movements to complete discussions on their possible unification for the peace process, according to a communiqué issued by the joint African Union-UN peacekeeping force in Darfur (known as UNAMID).
The communiqué follows consultations in Doha, between Djibril Bassolé, the AU-UN Joint Chief Mediator for Darfur, and Ahmed Bin Abdullah Al-Mahmoud, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in Qatar, which has been sponsoring the mediation efforts.
Bassolé and Al-Mahmoud have invited the armed movements to take part in a capacity-building workshop in Doha in early October so they can discuss issues related to the peace process, including how to improve security for Darfur’s inhabitants and how to boost socio-economic development in the region.
Bassolé and Al-Mahmoud have also agreed to organize a civil society forum in Doha before the start of final peace talks to allow the many Darfurian communities to discuss peace and reconciliation efforts.
Fighting has raged across the western Sudanese region since 2003, pitting the rebel movements against Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen. All sides stand accused of human rights abuses and an estimated 300 000 people have been killed in Darfur over the past six years and another 2.7 million people forced to leave their homes.
The efforts of mediators have been hampered by the fragmentation of the rebel movements into many different, smaller groups, making it harder for them to adopt a unified position during any negotiations.
In February, representatives of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) signed the Doha Goodwill Agreement with the Sudanese Government in an initial step designed to build momentum towards an enduring peace pact.
Bassolé and Al-Mahmoud welcomed recent initiatives in Libya and by the United States envoy, General Scott Gration, to try to unify the armed movements, and voiced hope that they would lead to greater cohesion among the rebels.
Meanwhile, the outgoing head of UNAMID has urged all Darfurians to come together to resolve the conflict in their region.
In an open letter to the people of Darfur, Rodolphe Adada, who is stepping down as the AU-UN Joint Special Representative, said he remained convinced that “our collective efforts will bear fruit in the near future and the situation in Darfur will gradually evolve from armed conflict to cessation of hostilities to achievement of peace and finally reach the realm of sustainable development.”

Pic: Local man holding a ”Yes we can” banner.