The Sudanese government and Darfur rebel groups adjourned their three-week-old peace talks aimed at ending fighting in the troubled region on Wednesday, a day after they signed two protocols on security and humanitarian aid.
Ahmed Tugod, spokesman for the Justice and Equality Movement, one of the two rebel groups in Darfur, told reporters that the talks were adjourned till Dec. 10 or so as they "need more time to consult about" a political settlement.
The talks, which began on a shaky note two weeks ago, produced one of the best atmospheres, resulting in the remarkable feat achieved on Tuesday, especially with the signing of the spiny security protocol.
It was indeed a major breakthrough in diplomatic dexterity by the African Union (AU) mediators who practically forced Khartoum to accept conditions it felt would impair on Sudan's sovereignty as a nation.
One such condition was the declaration of Darfur as a no fly zone.
While the rebels felt this would stop further air attacks on the Darfur people, the government argued that it had the right to fly its military aircraft on any airspace within its nation.
Eventually, the AU negotiators, and the rebels, won the day.
On the humanitarian protocol, the rebels insisted that food and other aid to the suffering people of Darfur be flown directly to the people rather than moving through Khartoum, another move the Sudanese government vehemently opposed in vain.
With the agreement, the supply of food and other humanitarian aid to the suffering people of Darfur had been eased, while aid workers were now safe to carry on their business.
With the humanitarian and security issues now behind, the AU mediators will shift to what the AU Chairman and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo referred to as the "real issues towards peace."
"The talks on the declaration of principles is to follow and I want to appeal to the groups to take this issue seriously so that before we conclude the Abuja talks, we shall come out as proud Africans are now able to resolve our problems by ourselves," Obasanjo said.
The Abuja talks are yet another effort by the AU to solve African problems by Africans. The 53-member bloc has made headway into resolving the Darfur conflict since a summit in Ethiopia in July.
Clashes in Darfur flared up in February 2003, and has so far caused thousands of deaths and sent about one million fleeing to neighboring Chad or internally displaced.
(Xinhua News Agency November 11, 2004)