Sudan will offer Darfur’s rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) government positions as part of a peace deal, according to documents setting out the terms of negotiations seen by Reuters yesterday.
The documents are the first concrete sign that Khartoum is prepared to share power with its bitter foe a development that could alienate the government’s existing allies in the western region and complicate preparations for April elections.
Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir was due to sign a ceasefire and “framework” deal, listing agreements to be fleshed out in further negotiation, with JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim in Qatari capital Doha yesterday.
According to a French language copy of the framework agreement, JEM and Khartoum agreed to “The participation of the Justice and Equality Movement at all levels of government (executive, legislative, …) in a manner to be agreed subsequently between the two parties.”
“Peace will prevail in Darfur before the coming elections,” Bashir was quoted as saying by State news agency Suna late on Monday. Other rebels, chief among the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) led by Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur, have rejected the deal.
JEM is widely thought to control the biggest military insurgent force in Darfur and carried out an unprecedented attack on Khartoum in 2008.
Ibrahim and Sudanese officials signed an initial version framework agreement in Chad on Saturday which also includes a ceasefire, plans to integrate JEM into Sudan’s army and a promise to reach a final peace deal by March 15.
Tuesday’s event has been billed as the “official signing”.
The signing comes almost exactly a year after Khartoum and JEM met in Doha to agree to a set of “confidence building measures” designed to pave the way to the framework agreement and then full peace talks.
The process stalled after JEM accused Khartoum of attacking its positions days after the ceasefire and of failing to follow through on the agreed measures, including freeing JEM captives.
Bashir on Saturday cancelled death sentences handed out to more than 100 men accused of taking part in JEM’s attack on Khartoum and promised to free 30 percent of them “immediately”.
Authorities at Khartoum’s Kober prison on Monday told Reuters they were still waiting for orders to free inmates.
JEM negotiator Ahmed Tugud confirmed the wording of the framework agreement. “This is not about getting government positions for JEM commanders and fighters. We represent the people of Darfur. This is a new phase for the participation of the people of Darfur.”
Tugud said JEM would push for the postponement of elections as part of the “power-sharing” negotiations. JEM and other rebels say elections would be a farce during the conflict.
Khartoum has so far insisted on the April date for the poll, set up as part of a peace deal that ended Sudan’s separate north-south civil war in 2005.
Tugud said the new deal would also have an impact on the position of former Darfur rebel leader Minni Arcua Minnawi, appointed as senior presidential assistant, after his SLA faction signed a deal with Khartoum in 2006. “He will take part but there is no room for Minni to have the upper hand,” he said.
The United Nations estimates 300 000 people have died since JEM and the SLA, launched a revolt in 2003, accusing Khartoum of neglecting the region. Khartoum rejects that figure.
Pic: JEM spokesperson- Khalil Ibrahim