Sudan/Chad: New page opened on peace (analysis)
From Daily Independent (Nigeria) by Paul Arhewe
Monday, 15 February 2010 - via www.afrika.no:
Abuja (Nigeria) - The two 'Horns of Africa' countries which hitherto are torn on each others' flesh have decided this week to let by-gone be by-gone, and turn a new page. Chadian president Idriss Deby made a surprise visit to Khartoum last Monday, after each country has laid several accusations and counter accusations of sponsoring rebels to fight the other's government.
Deby's visit no doubt has really laid a path for peace, as Sudan's president Omar Hassan al-Bashir the following day issued a statement saying his country has completely turned the page in the conflict with Chad.
In his words: "I say to our people in Sudan and in Chad, we have completely turned the page on problems between us. This visit has put an end to the problems between Chad and Sudan," he added.
Bashir has even accepted an invitation from Deby to pay a return visit to N'djamena.
This present peaceful meeting won't be the first time the two oil-producing neighbouring countries are trying to put aside the rancour distorting their peaceful cohabitation.
In March 2008, the two countries entered an accord in Dakar, the Senegalese capital, but it crumbled months later when a major faction of Darfur insurgents, the Justice and Equality Movement, launched an unprecedented attack on Khartoum. The reprisal on Ndjamena, which came as a surprise assault came close to overthrowing Deby's government before his military troops managed to rally and rout the rebels.
Mid January this year, Sudan and Chad okay the deployment of a joint force on their borders, in order to end the presence of rebels on each other's territory and halt their activities as part of normalisation efforts.
As Deby was brokering the peace, he stated "...a calm is not enough. Agreements and protocols alone cannot bring back confidence if politics are not included. It is time to outdo ourselves in order to seal this peace."
"If I am with you today, it's not purely for an accolade, I have come so that we can transform the current calm into definitive peace," he added.
Even Sudan's leader has been flabbergasted by his core enemy's surprise visit. "When we were told that President Deby was coming to Khartoum it was a surprise, but a pleasant surprise," Bashir said.
Bashir said joint projects would be set up in the border area between both countries in order to help those affected by the Darfur conflict.
The two countries have agreed to prevent armed groups from using the territory of either state against the interests of the other and to establish mechanisms to monitor their common border.
Analysts are of the view that al-Bashir is seeking cheap popularity, especially as he is standing to run this April for Sudan's first democratic elections in 24 years. Al-Bashir is trying to douse tension in his conflict-devastated state ahead of the April elections.
According to Roland Marchal, a senior research fellow and an expert on Chad-Sudan at France CERI international research institute, "Bashir will need to get an international community that is not too critical. It makes sense, especially as Chad has committed itself to not supply equipment to the Darfur rebels."
According to United Nations' estimate, about 300,000 deaths were recorded when non-Arab insurgents took up arms against Darfur people in early 2003. But President al-Bashir put the death toll at 10,000. About 2.7 million people have fled their homes and been displaced in eastern Chad and western Sudan because of bloodletting clashes with these areas.
The war broke out when Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) began attacking government targets and installations. The rebels were accusing Sudan of oppressing black Africans in favour of Arabs Janjaweed militia - who are accused of trying to "cleanse" black Africans from large swathes of territory.
Sudan government following the attacks then mobilised a self-defence militias. The government denies any links to the Arab. Al-Bashir has called the Janjaweed "thieves and gangsters".
But refugees have refuted Sudan's government stance, saying air raids by government aircraft would be followed by attacks from the Janjaweed, who would ride into villages on horses and camels, slaughtering men, raping women and stealing whatever they could find.
The international community has blamed President Bashir on the crisis, and issue an arrest warrant on him last year. Even, last week another fresh charge was approved by the International Criminal Court (ICC). However, Africa Union (AU) has refused to honour ICC warrant on the sitting president.
The international community has welcomed this new initiative towards peace in these Horn of Africa countries.
No doubt, the new peace deal with not only be a relief to the people within this war-torn zone, but an economic benefits to other Africa countries, and international organisations who spend their resources in sending military peace-keeping force and relief materials.
The United States has congratulated the Governments of Chad and Sudan on the signing of the January 15 agreements in N'Djamena to normalize relations.
We believe that the normalization of Chad-Sudan relations provides an important opportunity to advance ongoing international efforts toward a peaceful resolution of the situation in Darfur, and we call on the Governments of Chad and Sudan to contribute actively and appropriately to these peace efforts. This agreement will also enhance regional stability and promote economic growth.
The UN has lauded the "positive step" between the Sudan and Chad governments in securing their common borders and joining resource to combating rebels.
The Assistant-Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), Dmitry Titov, told the Security Council that "While the challenges in Darfur remain enormous, there is a hope and an opportunity that the coming year will bring positive changes for the region".