November 19, 2004.  

by Joyce Mulama


Article published by TerraViva Europe


NAIROBI (IPS) - United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has called for a speedy conclusion to peace negotiations between the Sudanese government and southern

rebels from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army. He said this was central to resolving another conflict in the country – that in the western region of Darfur.


Annan’s remarks came during a meeting of the UN Security Council Thursday in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.


The two-day gathering, which ends Friday, marked one of the rare instances in which the council has been convened out of New York. This is only the fourth time that the

15-member body is meeting away from its headquarters since the creation of the UN in 1945.


The United States’ ambassador to the UN, John Danforth, spearheaded efforts to bring the council to Nairobi – this in a bid to accelerate efforts to wrap up talks between

Khartoum and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). Danforth previously served as special envoy to Sudan for American President George W. Bush.


The political and humanitarian crisis in Darfur is also receiving attention at the Nairobi gathering.


Negotiations to end fighting in southern Sudan have been underway in Kenya since 2002, under the auspices of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development – a

regional organisation comprising Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Djibouti.


Six protocols on issues such as the creation of a transitional government and the sharing of oil wealth have been agreed on. Provision has also been made for holding a

referendum six years after the signing of a final accord to determine whether the inhabitants of southern Sudan would like to secede.


However, a final peace agreement has remained elusive.


Deep differences exist about where the army that will be created by merging government and rebel troops should be deployed during the six years before the referendum.

There is also uncertainty about where rebel troops who are not absorbed into this force should be deployed.


In addition, Khartoum and the SPLM/A disagree on the mandate of a proposed UN peacekeeping force.


While Khartoum would like the UN troops to be present in a monitoring capacity only, the rebels want them mandated to intervene militarily in the event of renewed



"The effects of the delay (in reaching a final accord) are felt not only in the south, but elsewhere too as conflict spreads to more parts of the country. The devastating

conflict in Darfur is glaring evidence of this," Annan said in Nairobi.


"That is why the time for decision is now...The speedy conclusion of the north/south talks would not only help curb the further spread of conflict to other parts of the

country. It would also serve as a basis and a catalyst for the resolution of existing conflicts," he added.


Government and the SPLM/A are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding Friday in which they will undertake to reach a final accord by Dec. 31.


However, Sudanese Vice-President Ali Osman Taha did not give an exact date for the conclusion of talks, Thursday, saying only: "A peaceful negotiation is the only way

forward for a comprehensive peace in Sudan and a deal will be reached soon."


SPLM/A leader John Garang appeared more willing to set a deadline for negotiations.


"The two parties need to expeditiously complete agreements on outstanding issues and sign a comprehensive peace agreement by the end of 2004. Peace has a price,

and we are prepared to pay the price," he told the Security Council meeting.


In an interview with IPS, Barnaba Benjamin Marial, the SPLM/A representative in Southern Africa, echoed Garang’s words.


"We are expecting a peace agreement before the end of 2004," he noted, adding "Everybody (in southern Sudan) is in the mood of peace. People are looking forward to a

peace dividend. Nobody is in the mood for fighting again."


Since war resumed in 1983 between the Islamic government in Khartoum and Christian and animist rebels in the south, more than two million people – most of them

civilians – have died, while over four million have been displaced.


Progress in ending the war has been overshadowed in recent months by the conflict in Darfur, which began early last year after rebels from the Sudan Liberation

Movement/Army and Justice and Equality Movement took up arms against government to protest against the alleged marginalization of Darfur.


Government responded by attacking communities that are of similar ethnicity to the rebels, and arming Arab militias known as the Janjaweed ("men on horseback") to

serve as a proxy force against these communities. Prior the events of recent months, Darfur was plagued by disputes over land and water resources between nomadic

Arabs and settled ethnic groups.


The campaign against tribes such as the Fur, Masaalit and Zaghawa has reportedly included mass killings, the abduction and rape of women – and the destruction of



According to UN statistics, about 70,000 people have died in the violence, while over 1.5 million have fled their homes – some across the border to Chad.


"The terrible situation in Darfur has been brought about mainly by deliberate acts of violence against civilians, including widespread killing and rape. Because of the

magnitude and intensity of the human suffering in that region, the conflict remains a burning concern," Annan said.


Since July, the UN has passed two resolutions on Darfur in a bid to press Khartoum to disarm the Janjaweed, and restore security to the region.


However, Annan said Thursday that government, militias and the rebels were all disregarding a ceasefire signed in April.


Another resolution is expected to be passed Friday. The New York-based Human Rights Watch believes the Security Council should use this opportunity to place an arms

embargo on Khartoum – and impose economic and travel sanctions against key members of government.


To date, however, certain members of the council – notably Russia, China, Algeria and Pakistan – have appeared reluctant to take the route of sanctions.


On Tuesday, Amnesty International – the London-based human rights watchdog – issued a report in which it alleged that Russia and China were facilitating the conflict in

Darfur by supplying military aircraft, military vehicles and ammunition to Khartoum.


* Moyiga Nduru contributed to this report from Johannesburg.



Günther Manske

Dr. Günther Manske


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