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Sudan Gets New Darfur Crisis Mediator

Some Sudanese are reportedly expressing optimism after the new chief mediator visited the country yesterday with a new mission to finding a solution to the Darfur crisis. Djibril Bassole, who is Burkina Faso’s foreign minister, is expected to begin what some are describing as a Herculean task of reigniting the stalled peace talks and ensuring a cessation of hostilities between the rebels and Khartoum. Bassole reportedly said his mission and priorities would be defined by Sudanese, adding that there was need to encourage dialogue that would lead to finding a comprehensive political solution to the Darfur crisis. But some political analysts say Bassole’s lack of knowledge of any Sudanese language or of the area would be challenging.

Rashid Abdi is political analyst with the International Crisis Group in Kenya. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital Nairobi that the standoff between Khartoum and the International Criminal Court would play a significant part in the negotiations.

“The first thing I would say about the visit is it comes at a very interesting time, when there is a standoff between the ICC and the Sudanese government over the plan by the ICC to indict General Bashir for war crimes in Darfur. Now we have been seeing the Sudanese very angry beginning a diplomatic offensive in the Arab-League, at the African Union (AU), and I think the fact that there is now a new envoy for the Darfur peace process who probably has a linguist problem, he doesn’t t know the country very well. I think it is highly optimistic to argue that much would come out with this new initiative,” Abdi pointed out.

He said the new dynamics of the talks would be challenging.

“The process is now changed on a new factor, which has actually become I think the biggest complicating factor in the whole Darfur issue, which is the current indictment, which hangs over general Bashir. I think the Sudanese would be inclined to not actually make any headway or any progress in the peace process in Darfur. They would be solely paying for more time in order to either have the indictment lifted or something,” he said.

Abdi said it would be intricate to predict the success of the new mediator.

“It is really difficult to see how Mr. Bassole’s mission can really succeed or even make progress in the light of the current standoff between the international community and the Sudanese government,” Abdi noted.

He said Khartoum does not want to be seen as antagonistic towards the international community.

“The Sudanese basically wouldn’t want to antagonize the international community. They are playing with caution. If you hear the language of their diplomats in the AU and the Arab-League, the message is that we are still engaged in the process of finding a political settlement in Darfur, despite our unhappiness with the possibility of President Bashir being indicted. Yet in the country itself, throughout the media and on the street level, you would find a great level of anti-UN feelings and generally an Anti-Western atmosphere being whipped up,” he said.

Abdi said there seems to be lack of cohesion with Khartoum’s diplomacy and the internal political dynamics.

“There is disconnect between the discourse of diplomacy and the internal discourse. So, I think unless that problem of the ICC indictment is somehow resolved amicably for both sides, things would be challenging,” Abdi noted.

He said the ICC wouldn’t want allegations of crimes against humanity to go unpunished.

“I can see the dilemma. There was an issue of impunity of Darfur. And justice has to at least be seen to be done in case of Darfur. But at the same time that has to be tempered by the reality that Khartoum has to be brought on board for the peace process in Darfur to work. And the ICC policy looks like it is on a collision course, and there is a possibility that it can unravel the whole process,” he pointed out.