March 2, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) - The African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) Sunday announced that it can no longer continue its mediation to end the conflict in Sudan’s Two Area due to the considerable gap in the positions of the two parties and referred the matter to the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC).
- File Photo - AU mediator Thabo Mbeki (AP)
On 18 February, the mediation handed over to the Sudanese government and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), a draft framework agreement calling to cease hostilities, open humanitarian access to reach civilians in the rebel areas. The proposal also suggested to hold direct talks on the Two Areas and to prepare the ground for a national conference on constitutional reforms.
The government delegation accepted the proposal of the mediation and insisted that the rebel group should accept to disarm and reintegrate its combatants. From its side, the SPLM-N proposed to negotiate a new humanitarian deal. Also, the group stressed that Khartoum should lift a ban on its political activities and accept them as political partner in the constitutional conference. Furthermore, the group called to hold a preliminary meeting in Addis Ababa to fix the modalities of the process.
"As is its right, the SPLM-N presented a fundamentally different proposal, which rendered an agreement unattainable. The Panel is of the view that as matters stand, it is impossible to bridge the chasm between the Parties and will therefore refer the matter back to its mandating principal, the AUPSC, for further guidance," the AUHIP said in its statement.
The panel of mediators headed by the former South African president Thabo Mbeki further praised the discussions that the government is holding with the opposition political parties to convene an inclusive national dialogue inside the country.
"This underscores the need urgently to find a peaceful settlement of the conflict in the Two Areas, the better to integrate the Two Areas into the national dialogue," the mediation added.
The government said it intends to end the military conflicts with the rebel groups in the Two Areas and Darfur region through separate peace agreements after what they can join a national process aiming to adopt a new constitution.
The rebels groups in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile and Darfur proposed to sign a comprehensive cessation of hostilities and to participate in an inclusive process with the other political parties after the formation of a new government. This holistic conference will discuss the regional conflicts, and adopt a new constitution.
In Addis Ababa, the government and rebel delegations traded accusations over the collapse of negotiations.
The government chief negotiator Ibrahim Ghandour who arrived on Sunday morning to the venue of the talks in Addis Ababa told reporters that SPLM-N is responsible for the failure of the talks because they demand the inclusion of national issues in a process destined to resolve the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Ghandour further criticised the AUHIP for not blaming the SPLM-N rebels and holding them "responsible for spoiling the talks". He further expressed hope that the position of the AUPSC on the resolution of the conflict in the Two Areas be more fair.
The presidential assistant further expected that SPLM-N rebels escalate military attacks in South Kordofan.
He also said that they would not accept to internationalise the national dialogue process.
"We will not accept the internationalisation of dialogue, and Mbeki has nothing to do the dialogue process. The claims of the SPLM-N are an attempt to waste time and resources needed by the Sudanese people," Ghandour said.
The spokesperson of the SPLM-N negotiating delegation was not reachable to comment on the suspension of talks.
However, in a press conference held on Saturday evening in Addis Ababa, the rebel top negotiator, Yasir Arman, reiterated that the 28 June 2011 framework agreement is the reference point for the peace process. The deal, which is denounced by the government, establishes a political partnership between the ruling National Congress Party and the SPLM-N and provides they work together to achieve democratic reforms.
Arman further said that the presidential initiative for national dialogue creates a good atmosphere to implement the framework agreement more than any time before. However he blamed the government delegation for not coming with new ideas about the comprehensive political solution.
"We do not want intentions, but we want solutions". If the government and the NCP do not have ready ideas now, or want to complete the process of consultation with all political forces they must ask a specific period to complete the dialogue, and then come up with clear ideas," he further added.
The deputy head of the Sudanese government delegation, Suleiman Omer, told reporters on Saturday that they have a mandate to negotiate only on the Two Areas.
In October 2009, the former South African president presented a report about justice and peace in Darfur to the AUPSC and the UN Security Council.
Since he was appointed to chair a follow-up panel to help to implement his recommendations for peace in Darfur and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 related to the South Sudan before its independence and democratic transition in the country.