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Sudan's Warring Darfur Factions Hold Workshops in Nigeria


The warring factions from Sudan's Darfur region are holding special workshops in Nigeria's capital before formal peace negotiations resume. But this new way of trying to make progress at the talks is facing the usual impediment, accusations of more fighting.

In this the sixth round of talks, African Union mediators have decided to bring in academics to discuss the themes of power-sharing, wealth-redistribution and new security arrangements.

Mediator Hassane Ba says these experts are trying to present accomplishments from recent peace-negotiating efforts, such as in Sierra Leone, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"People are drawing from these experiences and trying to [show] to these parties, to understand these experiences so they can negotiate and have a better deal," Ba said. "So we have experts, African experts and non-African experts who are here helping and making presentations, helping the parties to go through those terms, to better understand the issues that will be discussed," he said.

A spokesman for the Sudanese delegation, Nadjeb Abdulwahab, has been impressed by the first two days of workshops focused on power-sharing. He says he understands the people of Darfur must have better political representation.

"The degree of decentralization and the degree of federalism this is the issue that we are going to debate during the negotiations," said Abdulwahab. "But the more important thing is now the consensus, is that whatever system we are going to be adopt should be the system which gives the region adequate power, that enables the people of the region to govern themselves, to choose their leaders and to work for the development and the well-being of their people in connection with the center," he said.

A spokesman for one of the two rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement, says that Darfurians are tired of all power, even cultural, being concentrated by a small Khartoum elite.

"What we are saying, we want to be in a united Sudan, [but] Darfur has to share the power, it has to share the wealth," the spokesman said. "We do not have our culture for instance on the television, we never see the culture of Darfur, you will never see the culture of the south, you will never see the culture of the other regions, so what we want to say is it is like a mirror, everybody must see her face in it," he said.

Beyond this debate, unlike any other at previous rounds, there have also been the usual accusations of ongoing violence.

Monday, rebel groups accused militia backed by Sudanese government troops of killing 30 people in two new attacks in Darfur. Sudanese officials said the violence might have been the work of bandits. African Union mediators said they would send some of their monitoring troops to the alleged scenes in northern Korbia and western Jabalmara to investigate.

Sudan's government has accused a group of several hundred rebels of launching attacks on civilians and soldiers in the southern town of Sheiria.

Darfur's civil war began in early 2003 and has led to a humanitarian catastrophe, with hundreds of thousands of people seeking rescue in overcrowded refugee camps, and tens of thousands of them dying, many because of precarious living conditions.

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