Janjaweed leader preaches peace in Darfur - Some Darfur tribes agree local settlement
UMM KADDADA, Sudan, May 5 (Reuters) - Sudan's first vice president witnessed the signing of a peaceful settlement of tribal conflict in Darfur on Thursday in a remote part of the region after weeks of talks.
Thousands of cheering villagers, brightly dressed women and white-turbanned camel riders greeted Ali Osman Mohamed Taha in Um Kaddada in the northeast of troubled Darfur.
Some in the crowd said their solution to the tribal clashes in the east of the region should be used as a template for the rest of Darfur.
The agreement came after 2 weeks of talks between local tribes, Arabs and non-Arabs, and involved drawing boundaries between farms and nomadic cattle herders' grazing paths.
"We say here again that the only solution to the problem in Darfur is through peace and negotiations," Taha told thousands of Darfuris.
"We say to those who are carrying arms amongst us now and to the world: our hands are outstretched to you, our hearts are open to you. We don't want war anymore," he said.
The rebellion in Darfur by non-Arab tribes is now in its third year. Tens of thousands have been killed in violence and more than two million fled their homes in the remote west.
The rebellion hardly affected the northeast but the web of tribal tensions did touch some villages.
Amid Abdallah from an Arab tribe said rebels attacked a few villages in the region and tried to force people to join their military campaign and turn the non-Arabs against the Arabs.
"But instead we united all the tribes and discussed and solved the problem ourselves," he said.
Those from non-Arab tribes were difficult to find among the crowd but Ahmed Ibrahim who was there said he thought tribal talks were the best way forward.
The tribal talks began in Khartoum between Arab tribes led by Musa Hilal, who the United States says is a top Arab militia leader suspected of war crimes during the rebellion.
They came to an agreement with some of the non-Arab Fur tribal leaders, one of the main tribes involved in the rebellion. They then moved the talks to the grass roots in Darfur. The agreement in Um Kaddada is the result of such talks.
Taha, the interior minister, the minister of humanitarian affairs and the U.S. charge d'affaires were among the dignitaries who travelled to Um Kaddada to witness the signing.
The town has a new hospital, which the governor said was part of the development needed to stop the fighting in Darfur.
Taha signed a peace deal in January to end more than two decades of civil war in the south. The president then asked him to turn his attention to Darfur.
But some local sheikhs in other areas of Darfur have cast doubt over whether armed groups will listen to tribal leaders.
- - -
Janjaweed leader preaches peace in Darfur
Copy of a report entitled "Tribal leaders preach peace in worn-torn Darfur" by Opheera McDoom via Reuters and ReliefWeb 8 May 2005:
NUMU, Sudan, May 8 (Reuters) - An Arab tribal chief accused by the United States of being a leader of a brutal militia is now touring Darfur with a message of peace and reconciliation.
Musa Hilal and other tribal leaders in the western Sudanese region, including some from non-Arab groups, are taking part in a government-sponsored initiative to persuade villagers displaced by two years of fighting return home.
They offer people in some of the worst affected areas money as well as beefed-up security to encourage them to go back to their homes in the vast and arid region they fled in fear.
"No matter what it costs, no matter what the price, we have to restore normality in Darfur and reunite Darfuris," he told people in the northern non-Arab village of Numu on Sunday.
Hilal said a succession of governments in Khartoum had failed to develop Darfur, an impoverished region long suffering from conflict between mostly Arab nomadic tribes and non-Arab farmers over scarce resources.
"We have to put our home in order from within," said Hilal, 44, wearing a white turban and a long white gown.
But the initiative, agreed in Khartoum last month, has failed to win support from the main guerrilla groups.
The leader of the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement, Abdel Wahid Mohammed Ahmed Nour, said those from his non-Arab Fur tribe, Darfur's largest, who had signed the accord did not represent his people.
Darfur rebels launched an uprising in 2003 against what they say is government discrimination in favour of Arab tribes.
The United Nations says Khartoum responded by arming Arab militias, known as Janjaweed, who now stand accused of a campaign of rape, murder and burning non-Arab villages.
Tens of thousands have been killed in the violence and more than two million have been displaced, creating what the United Nations calls one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.
Hilal rejected U.S. accusations he was one of the leaders of militias involved in the atrocities, saying he answered a government call to defend his land and people and joined the official Popular Defence Forces, a local security force trained by the army.
He and other tribal leaders, including some from the Fur tribe, agreed in April on ways to encourage people to return and to ensure that a shaky ceasefire signed a year ago is respected.
Their plan includes more police to boost security in Darfur villages and money and food to help people rebuild their lives.
On his way to the Fur village of Numu, Hilal travelled in an armed convoy, even though he said the roads are now safe. It drove past a mountain where he said the first rebel training camp was set up by young men from the Fur and Zaghawa tribes.
He was also accompanied by a local Fur leader, who said his people had not backed the insurgency. "These rebels did not consult the people before taking up arms so why would we support them?" said Ismail Abakr Ibrahim.
A crowd of about 50 people gathered next to the village market, a few stalls selling fruit and vegetables. Camels and donkeys lay near army soldiers protecting the village about 200 km (125 miles) west of the capital of North Darfur state, El-Fasher.
Hilal said the government had promised $16 million to help those displaced by the conflict. A local committee would be formed to record the names of those families who had displaced relatives to facilitate their return home, he said.
"Each large family will get 2.5 million (Sudanese) pounds ($1,000), medium-sized families 1.5 million and small families will get 1 million," he told the crowd of white-clad men and women dressed in gaudy red and pink wraps.
The leader of the village mosque, Mohamed Khatir, said Numu had suffered economically from the war but that it had not been directly touched by the violence.
"I have relatives who ran to Kebkabiya (a nearby town) because they had no food," he said. "They will come back once all those citizens who are carrying arms leave from here."
Tags: Darfur Sudan Africa