SUDAN WATCH: Darfur talks on brink of collapse as SLA & JEM rebels say no

Friday, May 05, 2006

Darfur talks on brink of collapse as SLA & JEM rebels say no

The chance of salvaging a workable peace agreement for Darfur after two years of negotiations appeared remote on Friday after two of the three rebel factions rejected a proposed peace plan.

After the all-night talks at the Nigerian presidential villa ended, Zoellick berated the rebel leaders for rejecting the deal even though he and other diplomats extracted extra concessions for the rebels over the past two days.

"These (concessions) are all the opportunities, but it requires leadership on the part of the (rebel) movements and frankly that's in question," Zoellick told reporters at the end of the session.

Mediators placed their last hope for a deal in Minni Arcua Minnawi, the leader of the larger faction of the SLA.

"We are going to meet Minni again in a few hours. He said he would do his best to bring the others on board," said AU spokesman Noureddine Mezni as the all-night talks broke up.

Full report (Reuters) Estelle Shirbon May 5, 2006. Excerpt:
One faction of the SLA and the smaller Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), rejected a peace settlement but the other faction of the SLA, considered the most powerful, was still undecided after the marathon talks and said it would meet mediators again at 0800 GMT.

"We said that unless fundamental changes are made to this document, it's extremely difficult for us to sign it," JEM chief negotiator Ahmed Tugod told Reuters after emerging from a meeting with heads of state and diplomats.

The SLA faction led by Abdel Wahed Mohammed al-Nur took a similar position after its own meeting with a mediation team that included Zoellick, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and British International Development Secretary Hilary Benn.

Tugod said the JEM rejected the AU draft because it did not meet a series of key rebel demands.

These are a Darfur regional government, a post of Sudanese vice president, greater representation in national institutions, compensation for victims of the war and the allocation of 6.5 percent of Sudan's national income to a Darfur development fund.

Most of these demands have been known for months and mediators have long said they could not be met in full.

The Sudanese government had said it would accept the original AU draft, but the U.S.-led diplomatic push aimed to persuade Khartoum to give a little extra ground in the hope this would bring the rebels round.

The U.S. initiative focused on a trade-off of concessions on two key points. Provisions for the rebels to join the Sudanese army would be strengthened and in exchange requirements on disarming the Janjaweed would be amended in a way that suited the government better.

The rebels are split into two movements and three factions with complex internal politics and a history of infighting. This has hampered the entire peace process.
Related news reports:

May 5 2006 AP (Michelle Faul): Abdelwahid Muhamed El Nur of the main rebel SLA walked out of the negotiations before dawn Friday saying: "We are not going to sign." The action came shortly after a similar declaration from the small JEM, while a splinter rebel faction said it needed time to consult with colleagues in Sudan.

May 5 2006 4:31 AM UK Guardian AP report (Michelle Faul) Small rebel group won't sign Darfur plan - Ahmed Tugod, chief negotiator for the small JEM told The Associated Press that the main sticking point was his rebels' demand for the post of second vice president.

May 5 2006 5:31 AM UK Guardian AP report (Michelle Faul): Abdelwahid Muhamed El Nur of the rebel SLA walked out of the meeting with negotiators, saying: "We are not going to sign."
The action came shortly after the leader of a small guerrilla group issued a similar declaration, while a splinter rebel faction said it needed time to consult with colleagues in Sudan and would return later Friday morning.
May 5 2006 news round-up at Passion of the Present (Eric's posting in US east coast time zone).

May 5 2006 06:33 GMT 07:33 UK BBC report: Eleventh hour peace talks over Darfur break up after two rebel groups say no to a deal. SLA says it will return to negotiations in a few hours. BBC's Alex Last, who is at the talks, says that final hopes for a peace deal now lie with the largest rebel faction in Darfur, another SLM faction, led by Mini Menawi. After a series of meetings with mediators through the night, his group agreed to come back for further discussions at about 0800 GMT.


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