Limited Attendance Marks Darfur Talks Debut

With Darfur peace talks said to be in jeopardy even before they began over the weekend in Libya, Sudan’s government announced a unilateral cease-fire. Several key rebel groups failed to attend the talks, which got under way Saturday in the Mediterranean seaside town of Sirte under the watchful eye of Sirte’s leading resident, Libyan President Muammar Gadhafi. One day later, an end to their opening phase was marked by speculation that the next phase would be postponed until abstaining rebel groups had fully prepared their positions and agreed to come to the negotiating table.  George Ola-Davies is UN spokesman to Jan Eliasson, the Secretary General’s special envoy to Darfur.  From Sirte, Ola-Davies says the organizers are eager for others to appear.

“It is not everybody that is boycotting.  We’re expecting more leaders to come here.  We are hoping that those who say they will not come now will have a change of heart and come.  We are hoping that those who have requested for some time to organize themselves will find it necessary to come so that their voices could be heard.  We wish for the internally displaced persons to be here.  We have among us the civil society movement.  We hope that everybody will be here so that we can look at the problems, find the solutions to them, and the people of Darfur live in peace and harmony for years to come,” he said.

The negotiations are being sponsored by the United Nations and the African Union to help pave the way for a political settlement ahead of the planned deployment of a reinforced 26-thousand-troop peacekeeping force due in the troubled region by early next year.  They follow by two days an agreement signed in Sirte last Thursday by Chadian President Idriss Deby and four rebel groups that operate in eastern Chad along the border with Sudan’s Darfur region.  Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir attended the Libyan-sponsored talks on Chad, but did not stay on for Saturday’s start of the Darfur talks, for which he was not a designated negotiator.  Ola-Davies points out that stopping the Darfur fighting is just a prelude to what he hopes will be a serious process of building the framework of a lasting settlement of the four-and-a-half-year-old conflict.

“What the negotiators are trying to do is to get everybody on board to agree to a cessation of hostilities, simply because you cannot be fighting and talking at the same time.  When the issues that are to be tackled will be tackled – and there are many – we have to talk about wealth sharing, power sharing, security, land problems.  Most of the groups are thinking of preparing themselves now to continue with the process which has already started here,” he noted.

International mediators are indicating that the next phase of the talks may continue until the end of the year with the possibility that more rebel groups may enlist as the talks progress.  However, sponsors had been hoping that the Libya discussions would help UN prospects for achieving a political settlement ahead of the planned deployment of the hybrid UN-African Union peacekeeping force across the embattled Western Sudan region by early next year.  Ola-Davies says organizers do not plan to place any deadlines on Darfur groups reluctant to come to terms with other parties involved.

“Listen, you cannot put any timetable to talks.  That does not mean it should be an open-ended one.  We are, as I say, at the preparatory stage.  Special envoys have made it clear that there are phases we are going to go into.  We are only at the beginning,” he says.  

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs