Home | News    Monday 15 October 2007

Rebel SLM-Unity threatens to snub Darfur peace talks

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October 15, 2007 (ASMARA) — A Darfur rebel group threatened Monday to pull out of peace talks with Khartoum due later this month, following the decision of former rebels to withdraw from the Sudanese government.

Sharif Harir, a leader and spokesperson of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) Unity faction, said negotiations on the western Darfur region were impossible following the pullout of Sudan’s former southern rebels from the government of national unity (GNU) in Khartoum.

Last week, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) pulled out of the government coalition with the dominant National Congress Party (NCP), claiming a failure to implement a peace deal that ended one of Africa’s longest wars.

"The Darfur movements were expected to negotiate with the GNU," said the Asmara-based Harir. "However, now that the SPLM has frozen its membership in the GNU, for all practical purposes, that government does not exist."

Final settlement talks between Darfur’s myriad rebel groups and Khartoum are scheduled to kick off on October 27 in Libya, in a bid to end the conflict that has raged since February 2003.

"Under such circumstances it is untenable for the Darfur movements to negotiate with the National Congress Party that is known to dishonour its agreements," Harir said in the statement.

Harir warned of "possible horrendous consequences" if the "deep crisis in Sudan’s governance" could not be resolved.

A splinter of Harir’s SLA-Unity has been blamed for a deadly attack on African Union peacekeepers near the southern Darfur town of Haskanita late last month that marred the run-up to the talks.

Harir has denied any involvement and, in the statement, called for the help of the international community to salvage the January 2005 north-south comprehensive peace agreement (CPA).

"As that agreement is the principle cornerstone for any negotiations, this should be carried out before any talks on Darfur," Harir added.

"Failing that, the regime must bear full responsibility for the political and constitutional consequences of its intransigence," he added.

Several rebel factions were due to meet in the southern Sudan capital of Juba over the weekend to fine tune their positions ahead of the Libya talks.

Some diplomats have warned that the current flare-up in Darfur and the crisis between north and south could jeopardise the round of peace talks, mediated by the United Nations and African Union.

The civil war in Darfur broke out when rebel groups complaining of marginalisation by Khartoum launched a rebellion, which was brutally repressed by the Sudanese government and its proxy militia, the Janjaweed.

According to the United Nations, the combined effects of war and famine in Darfur have left at least 200,000 people dead and two million displaced. Some sources say the death toll is much higher.

(AFP)

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