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Delegates Fail to Make Progress in Darfur Talks

  • Gabi Menezes

Ibrahim Khalil, President of the Sudanese Justice and Equity movement (JEM), left, reads through documents with unidentified JEM rebel soldier at venue of peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria
Talks aimed at finding a peaceful solution to Sudan's Darfur conflict have stalled because of rebel objections to Chad as a mediator. The rebels also object to people accused of war crimes in Darfur being tried in a special court, set up by the Sudanese government.

African Union mediators, in the Nigerian capital Abuja, are trying to find a solution to rebel objections to Chad participating in peace talks.

One of the two rebel groups party to the talks, the Justice and Equality movement, says Chad is not impartial and is an ally of the Sudanese government.

An African Union mediator, Sam Ebok, says so far there has been little opportunity to debate the central issues of the conflict, because of objections to the countries party to discussions. Mr. Ebok says he is desperate for the talks to move in a more positive direction.

"The problem in Darfur requires political will to resolve," he said. "Bearing in mind that Darfur has been an indictment on all of us as Africans, because the killing, the destruction there is totally unacceptable after the genocide in Rwanda. We should never have allowed the situation in Darfur to continue."

A Nigerian journalist, Gilbert Da Costa, says there is now a huge question mark hanging over the talks that began more than a week ago.

Mr. Da Costa says both the Justice and Equality Movement and the rebel Sudanese Liberation Movement voiced protests against a Sudanese special roving court for war crimes. The court, which was set up by the Khartoum government, put 10 people accused of rape and robbery on trial Saturday.

"The rebels have made it very clear that they do not have any confidence at all in the judicial process in Sudan, and they obviously want the international community to get involved in the trial process with regard to the war crimes," he said.

A U.N appointed commission of inquiry into Darfur concluded earlier this year the Sudanese judiciary is not capable of holding war crimes trials. But Mr. da Costa says mediators are trying to play down the option of trials at the International Criminal Court because it jeopardizes the chance of a peace agreement.

Rebels took up arms in 2003, accusing the Sudanese government of neglecting the region. During the past two years, tens of thousands of people have been killed, and the Khartoum government is accused of backing Arab militias known as the Janjaweed. Human rights groups and rebels accuse the Janjaweed of killing and systematically raping Darfur's civilian population.

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