Darfur rebel factions meeting in Tanzania have reached a common
negotiating position for final peace talks with the Sudanese
government which they want to hold within three months,
international mediators said yesterday.
The rebel factions had been meeting at a luxury resort in the
northern Tanzanian town of Arusha to try and bury past differences
over the leadership and direction of the vast western region of
UN envoy to Darfur Jan Eliasson said the groups reached "a
common platform" for negotiations, encompassing power and wealth
sharing, security, land and humanitarian issues.
"They... recommended that final talks should be held between two
to three months from now," Eliasson told the closing session of the
four-day meeting organized by the United Nations and the African
The rebels gave few details, saying several groups would stay in
Arusha to work them out.
There was no immediate reaction from Khartoum. The government
has said it was ready to talk to the rebels, though not to
substantially change what was already agreed in a May 2006 peace
deal with one rebel faction.
The conflict started four years ago when mostly non-Arab rebels
took up arms in early 2003, accusing Khartoum of neglecting Darfur.
The government mobilized mostly Arab militias to quell the
Since the 2006 peace deal, insurgents have split into more than
a dozen groups with myriad demands.
Analysts have said the Arusha meeting's chance of success was
hampered by the absence of some important rebel figures, but
nonetheless succeeded in boosting unity.
"The key ... is who they are going to send to negotiations to
represent them all," International Crisis Group analyst Hannah
"If they can agree on that publicly, that is a good sign."
Diplomats said the presence of field commanders helped bridge a
political-military divide in the movements.
"There was more consultation among themselves than with us," AU
special envoy to Darfur Salim Ahmed Salim told reporters.
The rebels meeting in Tanzania also decided to keep the door
open for those who were invited but did not participate to join a
common platform, he said.
Khartoum accused Paris of failing to encourage one prominent
leader living in France, Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur, to attend. He
has only a few troops, but commands huge support among Darfuris
forced into refugee camps. Analysts say his blessing is essential
to the success of any peace deal.
"We want to send a message to our brother Abdel Wahed. We are in
need of his participation. We have agreed to meet him anywhere,"
SLA commander Jar el-Neby said in Arusha.
The large Sudan Liberation Army-Unity faction eventually
relented on its refusal to participate in the talks in protest at
the virtual imprisonment of its humanitarian coordinator, Suleiman
Jamous, in a UN hospital near Darfur.
Salim and Eliasson said they were making efforts to get him
freed in talks with Khartoum due to start on Tuesday.
Khalil Abdallah from the new umbrella United Front for
Liberation and Development urged foreign powers to pressure the
government to negotiate seriously. Eliasson and Salim now have to
convince Khartoum to agree to negotiate the points specified by the
The government has said it will not reopen the deal signed last
year, but would only consider making additions to it.
(China Daily via agencies August 7, 2007)