SUDAN WATCH: AU launches Darfur dialogue to revive moribund peace deal

Friday, October 13, 2006

AU launches Darfur dialogue to revive moribund peace deal

At long last, news of Darfur-Darfur Conference. AFP report via ST Oct 13 2006:
Hundreds of officials, rebel and tribal leaders and foreign mediators will meet in Sudan's war torn Darfur in an effort to improve an ailing peace agreement signed earlier this year, the African Union announced Thursday.

No date was set for the so-called "Darfur-Darfur Conference" but the fresh dialogue attempt comes amid huge international pressure on Khartoum to accept peacekeepers in the western region and fears of worsening humanitarian crisis.

"As far as the African Union is concerned we are not going to reopen the DPA (Darfur Peace Agreement) but we are going to see how to enhance it," AU political negotiator Sam Ibok told reporters.

In May, the Sudanese government and the largest Darfur rebel faction signed a peace agreement. But the AU-brokered deal was rejected by other rebel groups and it has failed to make an impact on the ground.

The idea of a wide reconciliation conference had been floated a year before the peace agreement was signed.

"The outcome, the recommendations of the conference will of course have a moral weight, they will not be legally binding, but then they would have the force of reflecting the views of the people in Darfur," said rebel representative Ali Hussein Dossa.

Ibok said the dialogue would look into issues which participants feel are not addressed in the Darfur peace agreements.

The question of how to disarm the pro-government Janjaweed militia, as requested by the peace deal, is expected to top the agenda, he said.

At least 200,000 people have died as a result of fighting, famine and disease, and more than two million have fled their homes in Darfur since the conflict erupted between local rebels and pro-government militia.

A report by the International Crisis Group think tank released Thursday said that international diplomacy had failed to solve the crisis and argued tough sanctions should be imposed on President Omar al-Beshir's regime.

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