Monday, December 07, 2009

Darfur Sudan: The media keeps missing the importance of the Doha consultations and Declaration

People are asking why the media keeps missing the importance of the Doha consultations and Declaration.

From Alex de Waal's blog Making Sense of Darfur
Friday, December 4, 2009
Civil Society and Doha: Where Next?
By Julie Flint
It is disappointing how little attention there has been, including on this blog, to the civil society conference in Doha in mid-November, the first such meeting held under the auspices of the succeeding Mediations. Two weeks on, the only version of the final Doha Declaration I have seen comes (predictably) not from the mediators, who are no better at informing Darfurians of their work than their predecessors in Abuja were, but from one of those present, Ali B. Ali-Dinar, who posted it on the Sudan Tribune.

In just three days, representatives of the three states of Darfur, including from Khartoum and the diaspora, succeeding in doing what the armed movements continue to fail to do—agree on a single, unified position paper. What is striking about the conference is how intensively ‘ordinary’ Darfurians had prepared for it and how, once in Doha, they re-worked the plan presented to them by the Mediation (see Ali’s account on Sudan Tribune for this). The four topics tabled for discussion (land, power-sharing, civil society, general issues) immediately became seven, with the inclusion of security arrangements and disarmament, wealth sharing and economic and social development, and justice, reconciliation and return. The land chapter was expanded to make specific mention of ‘nomadic routes’.

What is missing from the Declaration is as interesting as what is included. There is no reference to the International Criminal Court, rather an emphasis on ‘transitional justice’ in all its many forms—and at all levels, from local to international—in order to ‘cure the soul and mend the social fabric’ and ensure there is no impunity for any of the crimes committed in Darfur (2.4.1). There is no mention of genocide, ‘ongoing’ or past, only to ‘illegal stop and search[es]’ of IDPs’ and unspecified impediments to security in the IDP camps (2.1.1 C ). (This raises the question: was enough effort exerted to bring to Doha war-affected Darfurians not in camps?) There is no call for the armed movements to have a role in getting the displaced back to their villages, as demanded by the movements. This should be organized by the Native Administration ‘with the help of the unified police, UNAMID forces in addition to the army if necessary’ (2.1.2.D). There is no demand for a single Darfur region, a subject participants said requires more ‘research and consultation’ (2.3.11). There is no finger-pointing: the words ‘militias’ and ‘movements’ do not appear in the text, which recommends ‘the simultaneous collection of weapons from all parties except the regular forces’ (2.1.2 B).

Civil society is looking forward, not back, demanding the re-establishment of boarding schools (especially important for pastoralists), ‘major development projects of national character [to] foster a sense of nationhood and [remove] a sense of marginalization’ (2.2.1), job creation (2.2.5).

The Doha Declaration requests the parties to observe an immediate ceasefire. The parties claim to represent the people. It’s a pity that the Mediation isn’t exerting greater efforts to get the people’s voice to the parties (and to the media and lobbies that support the parties) to exercise pressure on them to put aside their individual agendas in the interests of the whole.

Many questions remain. Among them:
• Did the Sudan Government in any way impede the meeting or the ability of delegates to travel to Doha? Only five months ago, organizers of Mo Ibrahim’s Mandate Darfur were told that anyone attempting to go to Addis Abada for that civil society meeting would be arrested and put on trial for treason.
• Were pastoralists satisfied with their representation and input?
• How was the Declaration agreed on? By state or delegate? By unanimity or majority?
• Were the movements present as observers? (I believe this was the plan initially) If so, what was their reaction away from the media spotlight?
• What now?
Were any of the readers of this blog present in Doha? If so, can they do what the Mediation hasn’t—supply a detailed account of the meeting (and its corridors)? JEM has (predictably) said ‘most of the civil society representatives (in Doha) are supporters of the ruling National Congress Party’. The conference facilitator, Siddig Umbadda, refutes this. He says ‘quite a few government people declined to come because they thought the opposite’.

One final point: civil society sees a role for itself in ‘documenting’ any future negotiations (2.6.3 F). Had this been done in Abuja, we might not have seen such an immediate, violent reaction against the DPA. The failure of the AU to keep the people of Darfur informed of the progress, and content, of the negotiations was surely one of the main reasons for the uncompromising rejection of the DPA it its entirety.

4 Responses to “Civil Society and Doha: Where Next?”
Ahmed Hassan:
December 4th, 2009 at 9:31 am
Dear Julie Flint,
Many thanks for bringing this issue to discussion. Actually, ever since the meeting ended I was trying very hard to locate this famous Doha Declaration which was only briefly mentioned in the press release of the Qatari government.
I join my voice to you in raising these questions, and hope that someone can shed the light on the details of the meeting.
Moreover, I am also interested to know how representative to the civil society the participants were. A comment that I read in one article claims that the delegations were dominantly supporters of the government and that explains why the issue of the ICC was avoided. I do not claim that this is true, but I would like to know more about the selection and the composition and background of the delegates in addition to answers for the important questions that you raised in this article.
Many thanks again.
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Sean Brooks:
December 4th, 2009 at 5:37 pm
Good post Julie…I too have been asking why the media keeps missing the importance of the Doha consultations and Declaration, see:
I have not heard of the NCP impeding the travel of any delegates, which is something that was of great concern given what happened before Mandate Darfur. As for the the content of the Declaration, I addressed this in a recent post as well “And it seems apparent from the “Doha Declaration” itself that NCP representatives had limited influence on the outcome. In addition to a call for a ceasefire and negotiations, the civil society representatives also made strong demands about carrying out justice, ending impunity, and resolving land issues in Darfur. In fact, the document specifically calls for the return of all land of displaced persons and refugees to their original owners and the evacuation of those who have lived on the land during their absence. It also calls for the disarmament of all armed forces in Darfur, except for the constitutionally authorized regular forces, and the establishment of the necessary security mechanisms by UNAMID to allow displaced persons and refugees to return to their villages.”
As for how the declaration was agreed upon, Ali Dinar mentions that the delegates agreed to merge the recommendations brought to the consultations by the South/West Darfur and North Darfur delegations. Its my understanding that once the recommendations were merged together they were agreed upon unanimously.
I hope other attendees of Doha might answer your other important questions.
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Khalid Al Nur:
December 4th, 2009 at 9:12 pm
Ever since the failure of Abuja, a whole range of Darfurian groups including CSOs have been knocking at the door of the negotiations and asking to be represented. The mediators have always responded that to allow them into the hall would “complicate the process” and might lead to the armed movements (JEM and SLA-Abdul Wahid) pulling out. What this conference shows is that their presence doesn’t complicate the process at all, in fact it moves it forward. And, if there is a deal that brings in all Darfurians including the IDPs, the Arabs, civil society and the native administration, but is boycotted by JEM and Abdul Wahid — what does that mean? My prediction is that Khalil and Abdul Wahid might fulminate but they would have no option but to say, “those are my people, I’m their leader — let me follow them!”
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Ali B. Ali-Dinar:
December 6th, 2009 at 11:08 am
This is in response to Julie Flint’s questions:

(1) Did the Sudan Government in any way impede the meeting or the ability of delegates to travel to Doha?
For the Doha meeting, the wish of the government of Sudan (GoS) for the conference is to issue a statement that is critical of the armed movements and with fewer demands from the GoS. I believe the arrival to the meeting of individuals such General Adam Hamid, the Ex Governor of South Darfur, and General Hussein Abdallah Gibril, the Ex-Governor of North Darfur, whose names are floating around in the unofficial list of Darfur war criminals is a testimony to the government’s intention to derail the meeting/declaration but such attempt has failed. It failed mainly because the delegates from the three states did their homework before arriving to Doha. For Mo Ibrahim’s planned meeting the Government had tried to advance and bar specific individuals and the organizers reacted by canceling the conference. For Doha, the Government has its way in sending it’s people, but they failed in influencing the outcome. For more details about the process through which the Declaration was reached please read my statement:

(2) Were pastoralists satisfied with their representation and input?
The agreed Declaration was endorsed by delegates representing women, youth, IDPs, native administration, local NGOs, and NCP-ers. This is their vision for peace and justice in Darfur and for the benefit of all Darfurians regardless of their livelihood.

(3) Were the movements present as observers?
Some of the movements were already in Doha and in the same hotel (Sheraton) where the conference took place in negotiation with GoS and the team of mediation. The civil society delegates were accommodated in a different hotel (Retaj Al-Rayan). There was no presence from the armed movements in the civil society’s conference neither as delegates or observers because they were not invited. JEM’s response to the Declaration is announce here:
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See photo of Julie Flint in report at The Washington Post dated May 28, 2004: Julie Flint travelled for 25 days on foot and horseback in the Darfur region of Sudan to collect evidence of attacks by government-backed militiamen.

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