Home | News    Wednesday 23 July 2003

Darfur rebels agree to truce with Khartoum

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KHARTOUM, July 23 (AFP) — Rebels in the Darfur region of western Sudan have agreed to a two- to three-week truce in their six-month-old war with the government, a Khartoum newspaper said Wednesday.

The agreement was reached after three weeks of talks with a government delegation in the rebel stronghold of Kornoy, the independent daily Al-Sahafa said in a report from the North Darfur State capital of al-Fasher.

The rebel Sudan Liberation Movement submitted a list of 12 demands, including its formal recognition as a political party, after the two sides agreed to settle their differences through negotiation, the paper said.

The SLM also demanded that the government stop deploying Arab tribal militiamen against its forces and cease branding its supporters as bandits and highwaymen.

Nile River State governor Abdullah Ali Masar and 30 other members of the 40-strong official delegation already arrived back in government-held territory Tuesday and were expected to travel on to Khartoum to deliver the rebels’ demands, Al-Sahafa said.

The delegation, which also included Education Minister Ahmed Babikir Nahar, were all Zaghawas, the main ethnic group within the SLM, the paper added.

The government had previously refused to acknowledge any political motivation for the unrest among the sedentary peoples of North, South and West Darfur States, blaming it instead on "armed criminal gangs and outlaws".

But in a June 19 interview with the independent newspaper Al-Ayam, Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail appealed to the people of Darfur to lay down their arms and launch a dialogue with the government.

In a July 16 report, rights watchdog Amnesty International hit out at Khartoum for the abuses committed by the militiamen it has recruited among Darfur’s Arab nomadic tribes to fight the SLM.

Founded in August 2001 under the name of the Darfur Liberation Movement, the SLM began using its current name in February when it claimed responsibility for several anti-government attacks.

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