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Sudan Government, Rebels Resume Talks

  • Nico Colombant

A new round of talks in Nigeria to end Sudan's Darfur conflict is getting off to a rocky start with the government accusing the rebels of breaking previous agreements and rebel delegates arriving late.

The scheduled opening ceremony in Abuja Friday was pushed back, because rebel leaders were having problems getting Nigerian visas and encountered travel delays.

The African Union-sponsored talks are aimed at building on agreements reached in previous rounds and finding a political solution to the violence in Darfur.

In an earlier round held in November the two sides signed protocols reinforcing a cease-fire and guaranteeing the safety of refugees.

In an interview with VOA, Sudan's ambassador to Nigeria, Ahmed Khalil, accused rebels of violating the cease-fire agreement.

"Many very serious violations, many attacks were committed by rebel movements and we believe that it's high time that all the parties included and specifically the rebel parties should abide by what they have signed and by the agreement," he said. "If we want peace in Darfur, if we want to lift the suffering of the people in Darfur, the first step is to stop all kinds of attacks against civilians, against government garrisons in remote areas."

Rebels, in turn, accuse the government of trying to discredit the two main rebel groups represented in the peace talks by creating new splinter militia groups. They also accuse the army and pro-government militias known as the Janjaweed of also violating the cease-fire.

The mainly black African rebels accuse the Arab-led government of persecuting their supporters. They have demanded political autonomy and a larger share of the country's oil wealth.

Human Rights activist Jemera Rone says she hopes any peace deal will also include human rights guarantees.

"If you do not have human rights provisions and accountability, particularly, that is punishment for people who've committed all these abuses you will continue to have human rights abuses in Sudan," she said. "The North-South peace agreement that's ready to be signed doesn't have any human rights accountability nobody is going to be tried there's not even going to be a truth commission and that we think gave the green light to the government to go ahead with this plan of ethnic cleansing in Darfur because they figured they didn't have to account for any abuses."

The 22-month conflict in Darfur has claimed tens-of-thousands of lives and driven two million people out of their homes.

African Union mediators have expressed hope a comprehensive peace agreement could be signed by the end of this year.

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