Sudan’s vice president cautiously welcomed proposals from a panel of African leaders to end conflict in Darfur but said the question of a special court to try those charged with atrocities needed further discussion.
The 15-member African Union Peace and Security Council met in Nigeria to consider the report by a team of African “wise men” led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, Reuters reports.
The report recommends the establishment of a special court, including foreign judges, to try those charged with atrocities in Darfur, where the United Nations says hundreds of thousands of people have been killed by fighting.
“We go along with the deep vision contained in the report about elections being held all over Sudan, especially Darfur,” Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha said.
“Recommendations that need further dialogue include the establishment of a new justice mechanism. That needs closer scrutiny if it is in line with the constitution,” he said.
He said such hybrid tribunals would “set a precedent” for other problems in Africa and said there needed to be further dialogue on whether there were better alternatives for Darfur.
Mbeki said all the proposals in his report had been adopted by the AU but it was up to Sudan how to implement them.
UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said some of the recommendations in the report should be implemented immediately while others would take time. He hoped the measures would complement efforts by UN/AU mediator Djibril Bassole.
“We are confident a number of proposals made by the report will give a boost to the efforts of the joint chief mediator and his team,” Le Roy told the meeting, attended by Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua and his Kenyan counterpart Mwai Kibaki.
Kenya’s President Kibaki said it was vital a peace agreement for south Sudan, which ended a two-decade civil war with the north in 2005, be fully implemented and pursued with equal vigour if a comprehensive peace were to be achieved.
Sudan’s north-south civil war claimed 2 million lives and drove twice as many from their homes, destabilising much of east Africa. Relations remain tense, particularly with national polls next year and a referendum on southern independence in 2011.
“While we rightly commend the parties on the progress made so far, we are also obliged to highlight the challenges that lie ahead,” Kibaki said.
“These include the question of how Darfur can and should participate in national elections and the threat to boycott next year’s general elections in Sudan by the opposition.”
Mostly non-Arab rebels revolted in 2003 accusing Khartoum of neglecting Darfur. A counter-insurgency campaign drove more than 2 million from their homes. The United Nations says 300 000 people died, but Khartoum rejects that figure.
Fierce fighting in the early days of the conflict has declined, replaced in many areas by a free-for-all involving bandits, rebel splinter groups and rival tribes.
Darfur rebel leader Abdel Wahed Mohamed Ahmed al-Nur urged the AU to abandon its proposals for special courts, saying they would undermine the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
“There is no rule of law in Sudan. The African Union won’t be able to bring free courts to Darfur,” he said.
The Justice and Equality Movement, the most powerful rebel group in Darfur, has also rejected the panel’s report.
The ICC in March issued an arrest warrant for Bashir, saying he was wanted for war crimes in Darfur. The AU Council urged the United Nations to defer the process initiated against Bashir “in the interests of peace, justice and reconciliation”.
Pic: Former SA President- Thabo Mbeki