The rebel groups Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) have expressed readiness to hold talks with the government in Khartoum over the disputed Darfur region of Sudan in a bid to break the current stalemate.
The war in Darfur began in February 2003 when SLM and JEM rebel groups began fighting the government of Sudan, which they accused of oppressing Darfur’s non-Arab population.
The rebels’ willingness came after the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ambassador Smail Chergui and the Joint Special Representative and Joint Chief Mediator for Darfur, Ambassador Kingsley Mamabolo, convened a meeting late last week with SLM delegation led by Mr Minni Minawand and JEM’s Dr Gibril Ibrahim at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The meeting discussed ways of re-energizing peace talks, with a view of breaking the current stalemate.
The JEM and the SLM expressed their readiness to enter into negotiations with the Government of Sudan on substantive issues with the view of reaching an agreement that paves the way for sustainable peace and development. The basis for these negotiations will be a framework agreement, AU’s statement said.
The Movements were also received by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr Faki Musa Mahamat, who recalled the protracted nature of Darfur political process and called upon all the parties to find a speedy a solution to the conflict. He equally observed that the prolonged conflict has brought untold pain and suffering on the people of Darfur and that the urgency of a quick and sustainable solution cannot be overstated.
At the end of the meeting and as a demonstration of their political will and intent, SLM and JEM initialled the proposed pre-negotiation draft document that will form the basis of an agreement.
The meeting called on the Peace and Security Council of the AU and the leadership of UNAMID to relentlessly pursue all avenues to ensure that the Movements and the Government reach an agreement that would usher in lasting peace in Darfur, in accordance with all the relevant communiqués of the African Union Peace and Security Council and the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.
The Sudanese government and the JEM signed a ceasefire agreement in February 2010, with a tentative agreement to pursue peace. The JEM has the most to gain from the talks and could see semi-autonomy much like South Sudan.
However, talks were disrupted by accusations that the Sudanese army launched raids and air strikes against a village, violating the Tolu agreement. The JEM, the largest rebel group in Darfur, had previously vowed to boycott negotiations.