Sudan signs accord with Darfur rebels

Sudan and Darfur’s most powerful rebel group will tomorrow ratify an agreement reached after an easing of tension between Sudan and Chad.

The rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said on Saturday that the framework agreement reached in the Chadian capital N’Djamena last week was not a final peace deal but set out the terms for negotiations that could still fail if it saw signs of bad faith from Khartoum.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said it would “heal” the war in the western region.

He said he would cancel death sentences handed out to JEM prisoners and free 30% of them immediately — more than 100 men were sentenced to death by hanging after being found guilty of taking part in a JEM attack on Khartoum in 2008.

He told state television: “Today we signed an agreement between the government and JEM in N’Djamena, and in N’Djamena we heal the war in Darfur.”

Khartoum has agreed to a series of ceasefires during the seven-year conflict, but some have fallen apart days after their signing, and distrust between the warring parties remains deep.

Talks between JEM and Khartoum, hosted in Qatar, have been stalled for months. But there has been a flurry of activity in recent days against a background of thawing relations between Sudan and Chad, which borders Darfur.

Sudan and Chad, both preparing for elections, agreed earlier this month to end their long- running proxy war, fought by arming each other’s rebels.

Chadian President Idriss Deby has ethnic links with JEM’s leaders and has been accused of backing JEM.

JEM officials said the “framework” deal would include a list of areas to be fleshed out in negotiations, including compensation for Darfuris, humanitarian access and the broad topics of “power sharing” and “wealth sharing”.

“This is not the end. It is the beginning of the end,” said senior JEM official Al-Tahir al-Feki.

JEM officials said Saturday’s deal would be formally ratified by Sudan’s president and JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim in Doha, tomorrow.

Before the deal was signed by JEM representative Ahmed Wadiay, spokesman Ahmed Hussein Adam said the ceasefire would be temporary and dependent on Khartoum’s behaviour.

“We will not play their game if they are only interested in buying time, in tactics, in just signing papers to make it easier for them in the elections,” he said.

Sudan holds presidential and legislative elections in April, its first multi party contests in 24 years.

Sudanese presidential adviser Ghazi Salaheddin, who reached the deal in Chad, said on his return to Khartoum that he was ready to sign similar agreements with other rebel groups.

JEM and Darfur’s rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) took up arms against the government in 2003, accusing Khartoum of leaving their region marginalised and underdeveloped.

SLA founder Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur is demanding an end to violence before he will talk to Khartoum.

The United Nations estimates 300000 people have died in Darfur’s crisis, but Sudan disputes that figure.

The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against al-Bashir last year on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the region.

Source: www.businessday.co.za, 20100222

Source: www.businessday.co.za, 20100222

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