In Darfur, the leaders of five of rebel groups say they plan to unite their forces under a single umbrella organization called the United Front for Liberation in Development. That follows a recent meeting by rebel leaders in Eritrea. In the past year, rebel groups have splintered into number factions, creating obstacles to peace talks.
Among those following developments in Darfur is Timothy Othieno, senior researcher at the Institute for Global Dialogue in Midrand, South Africa. He spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the rebel attempt to unify their forces.
“The past indications have always shown that whenever you have a foreign player in trying to dictate or trying to sort of facilitate negotiations between various groups there’s always been a hidden agenda behind this. Now, these rebel groups supposedly have merged in Asmara, Eritrea. Asmara… has been an enemy to Khartoum…Eritrea has had a checkered history with regards to Sudan. But this current involvement of Eritrea in trying to tackle this Darfur process, I could put it as quite suspect,” he says.
He says there are parallel efforts underway, including those by the AU and the United Nations, as well as Libya. “Remember, history has told us unless you address the fundamental issues, fundamental causes behind the crisis in Darfur, just uniting them for any reason will not suffice in resolving the Darfur crisis in the long run,” he says.
Those issues include land ownership and marginalization, as well as numerous local matters. ‘The people of Darfur, just like the people in the east and the south of Sudan, have been marginalized since independence. If you’re trying to look for a single idea amongst them (rebels) it might be very difficult…their interests are a mixture of personal interests and the communal interests,” says Othieno.
The analyst says he believes the attempt to unite rebel groups is aimed at giving them a better bargaining position, rather than an indication of a new military offensive. “But as I’ve always said…if you want to resolve the crisis in Darfur, it has to be an inclusive agreement. The only thing…I think that will resolve that crisis is when you have all of the rebel groupings and factions in Darfur, sitting at one table, thrashing out their commonalities and trying to limit the differences. Because those commonalities are the ones that are going to bring them together. And once that can be…reached, a deal can be struck out, whether it is a power sharing, whether it is resources sharing, whatever it is, between all the rebel groups in Darfur, then I think you’re looking forward to a peaceful resolution,” he says.
However, Othieno warns that various nations pushing a peace process may have their own agenda, including gaining a stake in Darfur.