Direct peace talks between Darfur’s main insurgent group and Khartoum will begin in Qatar on March 10 after months of clashes and protracted negotiations, the rebel Justice and Equality Movement said.
But the JEM said April’s legislative and presidential elections should be postponed so the group and the millions suffering in Darfur from a seven-year rebellion could participate.
“If the political will and decision is there we can reach an agreement as quickly as possible,” al-Tahir al-Faki, a senior JEM figure, told Reuters yesterday.
But the group would not negotiate if there were parallel talks with other rebel groups, unless they united under the JEM.
Al-Feki said direct talks would begin with Khartoum’s delegation in Qatar on Wednesday to flesh out last month’s ceasefire declaration between the two sides.
“There are so many issues regarding the ceasefire which need to be discussed
numbers of troops, repositioning, redeployment,” he said.
But he said Sudan’s army, which on Monday declared it had taken control of the Jabel Marra region long controlled by a separate rebel group, had already broken the ceasefire.
“The ceasefire agreement which we signed was in all of Darfur, not just in areas under the control of JEM,” he said.
On clashes in Jabel Marra between the government and the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement led by Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur which refuses to join the Qatar peace process, he said: “We see this as an abrogation of the framework agreement.”
The International Criminal Court last year issued an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for war crimes in Darfur, where the United Nations estimates 300 000 have died in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
Bashir hopes a victory in April’s presidential election will legitimise his government in defiance of the warrant.
But the JEM’s al-Faki said elections could not be free and fair with Darfur still under emergency law and Bashir in control of state finances and media.
“There are no conditions for free and fair elections in Sudan,” he said.
He said a March 15 deadline to reach a comprehensive peace deal was not set in stone.
“We think it is going to be a very tough negotiation and don’t expect it to conclude by March 15,” he said.
Sudan’s government delegation was not immediately available to comment.
Pic: JEM rebels