The government of Sudan and the largest faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement and Army (SLA), one of three rebel groups in Sudan’s Darfur region, signed a comprehensive peace agreement in early May. An advisor to the Africa Union at the peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria, says getting the SLA’s second faction on board will go a long way toward giving the agreement legitimacy and strength.
The rebel group’s largest faction is led by Minni Arcua Minnawi, a leader of a small nomadic tribe, the Zaghawa. The second faction, led by Abdul Wahad al-Nur of the large Fur ethnic group, has not yet signed the accord but is still talking to the mediators and the government. A third rebel group that has not signed is by the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), which is linked to Sudanese Islamist politician Hassan al-Turabi.
AU advisor Alex de Waal told English to Africa reporter William Eagle that the Abdul Wahad faction of the SLMA is the more important of the two to bring on board:
“[The peace accord] is opposed by several groups, the JEM and some groups based in Chad, but they do not present a military threat to the agreement, just the airwaves. The main problem is the Abdul Wahad al-Nur group of the SLM that does command popular support across much of Darfur and is not happy with the agreement’s power sharing solution. The abdul Wahad group has massive support among [internally displaced people] and rural people in the poor heartland of Darfur and only with the active cooperation of the agreement will they return home. Also, many of the political class in darfur have aligned themselves with the Abdul Wahad group and though some are not happy with the group’s refusal so far not to sign up, they do share many misgivings about the contents of the agreement. So there is work to bring them together with the government.”
De Waal says some of the rebels – and the public – have not read the peace agreement, which is 140 pages long. He says there are many misconceptions about the deal. For example, he says many believe there’s no compensation for the victims of the war and that the deal does not have a plan for disarming the pro-government militias the Janjaweed. Many also do not think the agreement gives the rebels enough political power.
He says none of those assertions is true.
The agreement makes provisions for rebuilding and for sharing the wealth. Three hundred million dollars is guaranteed for the first year, with 200 million for the second and third years. De Waal says that under the accord, the government will set aside 30 million dollars as a first payment for compensation for the victims of the war, with more to follow. The movements will name the leader of a commission to compensate those who have suffered losses in the conflict – a key demand of the SLM and JEM movements.
De Waal says there are also many of what he calls “robust and rigorous requirements” for demobilizing the Janjaweed – a task whose key stages are expected be completed by mid-October. He says they and other militias will be disarmed before rebel forces are made to lay down their arms. It also envisions the integration of 4,000 former combatants to the army, 1,000 into the police, and 3,000 to help reconstruct Darfur. Internally displaced camps the areas around them will become demilitarized zones. The people of the camps will choose their own police force from the community.
Within two months, the tribal leaders, women, youth and ethnic groups of Darfur – including ethnic Arabs, but not Janjaweed – will come together in a Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Reconciliation Forum. The group will set up a Peace and Reconciliation Council to solve tensions as they arise.
He also says the rebel movements will be represented in several new and existing bodies. “It is true,” he says, “ that the movements not having won the war were not in a position to dictate their terms or control their existing state or national assemblies. However, the Transitional Darfur Regional Authority [TDRA], the most powerful body in Darfur empowered to implement the peace agreement, will be chaired by a nominee of the [rebel] movements, and the majority of its members will be nominees of the movements. [The chair of the authority will also become the senior assistant to the president, the fourth highest position in the national unity government.] So, there is a Darfur authority at the regional level with extremely strong representation from the movements.” The TDRA will be responsible for displaced people and war victims, while the states will deal with issues such as education and health.
Under the peace agreement, the rebels will name the governor of one of Darfur’s three states and 21 members of each of the state legislatures. They will also have one cabinet minister in the national government and 12 seats in the National Assembly. Elections will be held within three years, and one year later a referendum will determine whether Darfur’s citizens want to remain as three states or form a single region.
Asked whether he is confident the government will adhere to this ceasefire agreement, de Waal says, “The agreement was designed with the government’s uneven record of compliance with previous peace agreements in mind.” He says there are several guarantees in the accord, including a ceasefire commission with the power to publicly “name and shame” those who break the deal, and to forward the names to the Africa Union’s Peace and Security Council for sanctions.
The agreement is also supported by AU and UN resolutions, including one (Resolution 1591) that provides for individual sanctions for anyone obstructs the peace process, and the implementation of the accord.
De Waal calls the agreement “the first step in the road to peace…a template for which Darfur’s problems can be solved.” Four years of violence in Darfur has killed 180 thousand people and displaced two million.
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