Darfur mediators defend peace deal after protests
, reports Estelle Shirbon for Reuters May 10, 2006. Excerpt:
Six AU mediators issued an open letter on Wednesday to the rebel groups who rejected the [Darfur Peace] agreement, explaining in detail the benefits the deal is designed to bring to them and to the people of Darfur.
"There are so many attempts to misrepresent the agreement," said Sam Ibok, head of the AU mediation team and one of the signatories of the open letter.
After two years of peace talks in Nigeria, only one faction of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), led by Minni Arcua Minnawi, accepted the settlement drafted by AU mediators.
A rival SLA factional leader, Abdel Wahed Mohammed al-Nur, is still in the Nigerian capital Abuja where he is facing diplomatic pressure to belatedly sign the deal. The deadline for any signatures to be added is May 15.
Nur is weak militarily but the international community is desperate for him to endorse the agreement because he is a member of the Fur tribe, Darfur's largest. Minnawi has more fighters but he is from the smaller Zaghawa ethnic group.
"The open letter is first and foremost aimed at Abdel Wahed (Nur) and his people," said Ibok.
He added that a campaign was being prepared to inform people in Darfur about what the deal offered them. This would include explanatory leaflets in Arabic.
The open letter said some of the suspicions the rebels had expressed about the agreement stemmed from ignorance or misunderstanding of its content.
"At the moment you have nothing. Everything in the agreement is a gain, and if you obtain the support of the people, you can gain still more," said the letter, referring to elections that the agreement says must be held in three years.
"Whoever wins those elections, governs Darfur," the letter said, stressing that this represented an avenue for the rebels to pursue some of the demands that the accord does not meet.
Turning to security arrangements, the mediators wrote that these were the best part of the deal for the rebels. "At long last, there is a clear plan for dealing with the problem of the Janjaweed," the letter said, spelling out a sequenced plan in which the government must disarm the Janjaweed before the rebels are required to lay down their weapons.
"Demilitarised zones are created along humanitarian supply routes and around camps for internally displaced persons, and in buffer zones that separate the forces of the parties," it added.