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Darfur groups accuse African mediation of siding with Sudanese government

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August 18, 2016 (KHARTOUM) - Two Darfur groups have attacked the African Union High Implementation Panel- (AUHIP) which brokers Sudan’s peace talks and accused it of siding with the Sudanese government.

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JEM leader Gibril Ibrahim (C) speaks at the opening session of Darfur negotiations flanked by SLM-MM leader Minni Minnawi in Addis Ababa on 23 November 2014 (Photo courtesy of AUHIP)

After a series of talks in Addis Ababa between 9 to 14 August, the Sudanese government, Sudan Liberation Movement–Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) failed to sign cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access agreements in Darfur.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the AUHIP said the obstacles in the negotiations arose when JEM and SLM-MM “re-opened numerous issues that had previously been agreed and others which contradicted the Roadmap Agreement”.

The Panel further said the rebel groups refused “balanced options” the mediation proposed on the location sites of fighters and mechanisms for the monitoring of humanitarian assistance.

“While the Government accepted those proposals, the introduction of new issues by the JEM and SLM-MM, inevitably broke the negotiations,” emphasized the AUHIP.

In response, JEM and SLM-MM stressed they entered into these negotiations in good faith and were prepared to make every effort towards reaching an agreement on cessation of hostilities, saying the government didn’t share their commitment to achieve an agreement.

Also, they regretted that the AUHIP had incorrectly blamed them for the failure of talks, “while vindicating the Government”.

“The AUHIP’s statement was incorrect, however, due to the fact that they did not take the opportunity to fully discuss with SLM-MM and JEM proposals and modifications made by them to the most recent draft agreement before adjourning the talks or before releasing its statement,” said the two groups in a statement extended to Sudan tribune on Thursday.

The statement pointed that JEM and SLM-MM were prepared to move the negotiations forward and conclude a reasonable agreement, saying the government, however, insisted upon unreasonable positions regarding the disclosure of forces, humanitarian mechanisms, and the release of POWs.

“Additionally, the Government insisted on referencing selective resolutions irrelevant to the cessation of hostilities agreement,” read the statement which was signed by SLM-MM Chief Negotiator Trayo Ahmed Ali and JEM Chief Negotiator Ahmed Tugod Lissan.

“Instead of making efforts to budge on the government’s intransigent positions, the mediation adopted the government position with regard to POWs, [fighters] locations, humanitarian mechanisms and arbitrary selection of [African Union] resolutions and blamed the parties that demonstrated the highest degree of flexibility and objectivity,” they added.

JEM and SLM-MM added they have demonstrated their good faith “not only by our signing of the Roadmap Agreement, but also by our having twice declared six-month unilateral cessation of hostilities with our colleagues in the Sudan Revolutionary Front”.

“We have remained continuously willing to sit with the Government of Sudan to negotiate a cessation of hostilities for the benefit of the people of Sudan, and we engaged in this last round of talks in the hope that we would conclude such an agreement,” read the statement.

The two groups pointed that the government negotiating team insisted on making the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) the basis for negotiations, saying the cessation of hostilities talks has nothing to do with the DDPD.

“That was one of the barricades that prevented the conclusion of a cessation of hostilities agreement,” said Ali and Lissan.

JEM and SLM-NN underlined they remain committed to the process and hopeful that further negotiations will move forward successfully.

“We look forward to not only swiftly achieving a cessation of hostilities agreement, but also to promptly move forward with the implementation of the Roadmap Agreement,” the statement further reads.

The Sudanese army and its allied militias have been fighting a number of armed movements in Darfur since 2003.

Doha facilitated the Darfur peace negotiations which resulted in the signing of the DDPD by the Sudanese government and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) in July 2011. Also, a dissident faction of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) joined the DDPD in April 2013.

Since several years, JEM led by Gibril Ibrahim and the SLM-MM led by Minni Minnawi have engaged in peace talks with the government under the auspices of the African Union.

However, SLM-AW led by Abdel-Wahid al-Nur is not part of the African Union mediated peace talks. The rebel group rejects negotiating a peace agreement with Khartoum government, unless the government militias are disarmed and displaced civilians return to their original areas.

(ST)

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