By Tom Law
April 26, 2012 (LONDON) - A former rebel leader who joined the Sudanese government last year has warned Darfur rebels not to become involved in the current conflict between Sudan and newly-independent South Sudan, encouraging them to make peace with Khartoum.
- Chairman of Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) and head of the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), Tijani Sissi (AP)
Tijani Sissi described the alleged involvement of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in the South Sudanese occupation of the strategic Heglig oil field earlier this month as a "collosal mistake". South Sudan and JEM deny they were involved .
The Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) wrestled the area, which had supplied Khartoum with half its oil-production, back from the South Sudanese army (SPLA) on 20 April after they held the disputed territory for 10 days. Juba says it withdrew voluntarily.
JEM and the two main factions of the Sudan Liberation Army formed, in November last year, an alliance with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement - Northern Sector (SPLM-N), which has fought the government in South Kordofan and Blue Nile since last year.
Before the 2005 peace deal that culminated in South Sudan’s independence less than a year ago, the SPLM-N were part of the southern-based SPLM rebels that had fought the government for two-decades.
A deal recognising the SPLM-N as a legitimate party in Sudan was scrapped by Khartoum in August, who insisted that the armed elements of the SPLM-N must either disarm or move south of the border.
Both sides accuse the other of triggering the conflict which occurred before key parts of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement were fully implemented in the two states.
Juba says it no longer supports its former comrades in the SPLM-N or the new coalition of rebel forces the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) but Khartoum has said it will refuse to sign security agreements with South Sudan unless the SPLM admits it continues to back the group.
Despite Darfur’s three major rebel groups either rejecting or not taking part in the process that led to the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) many opposition forces believe it has the potential to end the nine-year conflict where over 300,000 have people died, according to UN estimates.
Speaking from Khartoum through a telecast to an event organised by the Humanitarian Policy Group of the London-based Overseas Development Institute, Sissi, who joined the government in July 2011 expressed hope that the Darfuri elements of the SRF would join the Doha process.
He told the audience in London that a substantial number of people in Darfur supported the Darfur peace process his party, the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), has entered into with the government.
A previous Darfur Peace Agreement or Abuja deal was signed on 5 May 2006 between the government and a faction of Sudan Liberation Army led by Minni Minnawi. The deal collapsed in 2010 as the parties failed to implement security arrangements.
Sissi admitted that there will be security and financial challenges in implementing the DDPD but said he hoped that his deal with the government would not suffer a similar fate and noted the positive reception he and his team had received since arriving in Khartoum.
NO INVESTMENT NO PEACE DEAL
Investment in the impoverished region was a key element in the deal signed in Qatar and Sissi repeated his comments, from earlier this week to the Sudanese parliament, that the peace deal would collapse if appropriate finance was not provided for development and peace building projects.
Without the finance in place, he said, "there is simply no agreement".
Sissi, who became chairman of a new provincial body - the Darfur Regional Authority based in El Fasher - as part of the deal, said that $10-13 billion was needed for Sudan’s western region to enable it recover and develop.
He said that the Darfur Development Bank - a Qatari initiative proposed during the Doha talks - needed to be established so that international and national donors who had pledged funds could provide the finance that was at the heart of the DDPD.
In a briefing to the Sudanese parliament on Tuesday over the implementation of the DDPD Sissi said that Khartoum has not yet paid the $200 million needed as capital to establish the bank.
"We should be more serious if we want peace in the region,” Sissi told parliament.
The international community has pledged over $800 million with Qatar stating it will spend $2 billion on Darfur development projects through the DDB.
The former rebel leader said Thursday that the Darfur Regional Authority has three priorities with the money it is due to receive through the bank:
- Allow refugees and internally displaced people to return to their homes, ensuring that land occupied by new comers was returned.
- Reconstruction and development of Darfur, which he estimated could cost $10-13 billion.
- Repairing the social fabric of Darfur and bringing communities together after they had been polarised by the conflict, which has caused tribal fault lines between Arab and African groups as well as other ethnic divisions.
Lack of funds has meant that two conferences due to help the reconciliation process have had to be postponed.
Since the independence of South Sudan Khartoum has suffered from a severe economic crisis due to loss of oil revenue; initially at partition in July with South Sudan taking with it 75% of the country’s oil-production; and then in January when Juba stopped pumping its oil through Sudan over a transit fee dispute.
Khartoum accuses the three main Darfur rebel groups who did not sign the DDPD of being backed by the new state on its southern border. The last few weeks have seen the worst border violence between the two sides since Africa’s largest country split in two.
Mustafa Osman Ismail, an adviser to Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir, told youths celebrating the recapture of Heglig in Khartoum on Tuesday that South Sudan’s oil-revenue was finding its was to the SRF rebel groups.
The former foreign minister said Sudan would no longer allow the export of southern crude "because they are conspiring against Sudan by supporting militias".
Sudan and South Sudan persistently exchange accusations on supporting rebel groups in each others’ country, but both sides deny the allegations.
PEACE DEAL IMPLEMENTATION
Sissi told the London audience that the LJM was working to bring all its members and operations back inside Sudan and that other key elements of the deal were being implemented, including the creation of the National Human Rights Commission.
A land commission had also been established, he said, to resolve disputes and return land to those who had been forced from their areas. The UN estimate that two million people were displaced by the conflict but there have been reports verified by the UN that refugees have been returning from Chad in recent months.
Sudan’s second vice president is also now from Darfur, another demand made by the LJM. Al-Haj Adam Youssef, a member of the ruling National Congress Party was appointed last year but without any amendment to the constitution, after this term - due to end in 2015 - there is no guarantee that someone from Darfur will retain the position.