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US Envoy Urges Quick Peace Agreement in Sudan - 2004-03-19

The U.S. special envoy on Sudan is in the Kenyan town of Naivasha to urge the Sudanese government and the country's main rebel group to reach a peace agreement as soon as possible.

Special envoy John Danforth told reporters Friday the longer the Sudanese peace negotiations are allowed to go on, the less chance of success there will be.

Mr. Danforth says President Bush sent him back to Naivasha to see what can be done to ensure a successful and speedy conclusion to the talks that have been going on in Kenya for more than a year.

"President Bush has instructed me to express his concern that the longer this process drags out, the more possibilities there are for a real breakdown within Sudan," he said. "So he believes time is of the essence."

Mr. Danforth said President Bush is required under U.S. law to report back to Congress on the progress of the peace talks, and whether or not the parties are negotiating in good faith. The president has until April 20 to do so.

Negotiations between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army are stuck on the issue of who is to administer an area called Abeyi in central Sudan.

The government says Abyei falls under its jurisdiction according to terms set out at independence. The rebels say most of the people living in Abyei are black Africans, like people in southern Sudan, and so the area should be part of the south. Northern Sudan is mainly Arab Muslims, while the south is mainly black Christians and Animists.

The two sides have already worked out the status of two other controversial areas, as well as arrangements on how to share wealth and power in a post-war Sudan.

Mr. Danforth said the United States has put forward proposals on what he called a fair approach to Abyei.

These proposals include a re-definition of the region's boundaries, representation for the Abyei people in two state legislatures, Bahr-el-Ghazal and Western Kordofan and the administration of the area by a local executive council elected by Abyei residents.

Mr. Danforth also said the United States recommended that oil revenues from the area be split six ways among local, state and national governments and ethnic groups.

The U.S. envoy also had harsh words about the ongoing fighting in the western Sudan region of Darfur, where another rebel group is fighting government forces and an Arab militia called Janjaweed that many say is being backed by the government.

"One of the really bad things that's happened in Sudan is the terrible outbreak of violence including the burning of villages, mass rapes, killings in the area of Darfur," said John Danforth. "Clearly this is an issue that has to be satisfactorily resolved."

Mr. Danforth said the situation in Darfur is a humanitarian disaster, and it must be resolved before there can be normal relations between the United States and Sudan.