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Wed, 22 Jan 2020 15:20 GMT

High Hopes Hang on Sudanese Peace Negotiations with Armed Movements, Despite Postponement


7Dnews London - Ahmed Fathi

Wed, 20 Nov 2019 22:17 GMT

Amid international and regional calls for peace in Sudan and an end to conflicts that have claimed thousands of lives, Khartoum's transitional authorities announced on Tuesday that a round of negotiations scheduled for Thursday November, 21st, in Juba with a major Sudanese rebel movement was postponed to December 10th at the request of South Sudan mediation.

According to AFP, a member of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan said in a statement that Khartoum "accepted the request of the mediation to postpone the negotiations until December 10th."

The statement did not explain why Juba had asked to postpone negotiations, which began in September, between Sudanese government and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), which includes three major rebel movements in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

On October 14th, Juba hosted a round of peace talks between the Sudanese government and the armed groups. Sudan's Justice and Equality Movement, the Sudan Liberation Movement /MinniMinnawi faction and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/northern sector took part in the talks with the government.

In this regard, the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), Jeremiah Mamabolo, on Wednesday November 20th, urged Sudanese political forces, especially armed groups that have not yet joined the peace process, to come to the negotiating table, Xinhua reported.

He said in a press conference in Khartoum,"I call on all the Sudanese political forces, particularly the armed movements who have not yet joined the peace process, to seize this historic moment and come to the negotiating table."

The official urged both the Sudanese Government and armed movements to work with the United Nations and other international actors to support humanitarian access to all remote areas, particularly in Darfur, to ensure timely and effective delivery of humanitarian assistance, Xinhua said.

"It is extremely important that as the peace process moves forward, we continue providing basic humanitarian support to the people," he said.

In early 2008, UNAMID was deployed in Darfur, an area where military clashes between the Sudanese army and rebels have been raging since 2003. It is the second largest peacekeeping mission in the world, after The United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo(MONUC).

For its part, the African Union (AU) plays a key role in the ongoing negotiations to end Sudan's civil war.

The AU, which was instrumental in mediating between the Transitional Military Council and civilians following the dismissal of President Omar al-Bashir earlier this year, should continue to play a crucial role in the peace process. It has a role as a mediator and guarantor of the agreement that will emerge from the current negotiations.

According to a three-year power-sharing agreement signed in August 2019, the Sovereignty Council of Sudan, led by Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has six months to complete peace agreements with all armed groups in Sudan.

Noteworthy, South Sudan's President Salva Kiir in September hosted the peace talks in Juba that resulted in a declaration aimed at building confidence among the negotiating parties. The so-called Juba Declaration also provided a framework for further negotiations.

The declaration abolished criminal charges and lifted al-Bashir's travel ban against several leaders of armed groups. It also committed the signatories to the ceasefire and the exchange of prisoners. Armed groups, in turn, agreed to create a "humanitarian corridor" to distribute aids, Reliefweb reported.

Further talks in October between the rebels and the transitional government identified key issues for negotiation.

Peace Opportunities

Several opportunities for peace emerged during the uprising that ousted al-Bashir from office in April. One of the main opportunities is that the civilian resistance forces, currently part of the transitional government, and armed groups began to cooperate during the uprising.

According to Reliefweb, this created a working relationship that allowed them to meet for negotiations despite the reservations of armed groups to the provisions of the Interim Constitutional Declaration, and civilians to the Juba Declaration.

Another opportunity for peace is the current process of negotiation and peacemaking between armed groups that have been undermined in the past and who sometimes fought each other.

Moreover, the main political changes in Sudan have made the conflict "mature" for negotiations. There is currently considerable pressure from inside and outside Sudan on armed groups to end the conflict. If they fail, they risk losing political legitimacy and face additional sanctions from the AU.

Possible Threats to Achieve Peace

The current peace process faces many challenges that will emerge as negotiations continue. The most pressing challenge is a lack of trust among key stakeholders, who do not believe their counterparts are negotiating in good faith, Reliefweb reported.

A number of rebel groups have accused the Sovereignty Council of Sudan of being dominated by the military forces it has been fighting for decades. Therefore, they are not convinced that the current peace process is different from a number of previous agreements that they say thatal- Bashir's government has failed to implement.

On the other hand, there is also deep mistrust within and among armed groups. Historically, armed groups and coalitions have split, and splinter groups have signed separate deals with the government.

In addition, there are fears among civilians that armed groups may not pursue peace as a major goal. Civilians fear armed groups will withdraw from the peace process in an attempt to maximise their narrow political and economic gains, Reliefweb said.

The lack of confidence at this stage in the negotiations has the potential to hinder consensus-building on substantive issues to be addressed through the peace process.

Noteworthy, the conflict in Darfur erupted in 2003 when African ethnic rebels took up arms against al-Bashir's government, accusing it of marginalising their region economically and politically. In 2011, similar conflicts erupted in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states during South Sudan's secession from Sudan.

Over the years, conflict between the rebels and the central government in Khartoum has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions.

Middle East