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Pan-African Parliamentary Committee Meets With Darfur Rebel Group

Members of the African Union's Pan-African Parliament Friday concluded three days of talks with a rebel group from the war-torn Darfur region of western Sudan. The parliamentarians will now compile the report of their investigations on how best to stop the conflict there.

The chairman of the Pan-African Parliament's select committee on Darfur, Ugandan MP Abdu Katuntu, gave few details of the committee's discussions with officials from the Sudan Liberation Movement, one of two rebel groups operating in Darfur.

Mr. Katuntu said his committee will wait until the next session of the Pan-African Parliament, set to open March 29, before revealing details of these latest talks and other information in the committee's report.

The Ugandan MP did say meetings with the rebel group and others during the committee's investigations were more than just information gathering sessions.

"Our mission is subtly different from the sort of missions that have been in Darfur in the sense that we are not only investigating but we are also engaging the bureaucrats, the parties to the realities on the ground, and impressing it upon them the need to have a quick solution to that problem," Mr. Katuntu said. "The same message has been carried to Nairobi when we have been meeting the rebel movement."

The Pan-African Parliament formed its select committee on Darfur last year. The six-member group traveled to the region in November, where they met with officials from the Sudanese government, rebel groups, United Nations, local communities, and others to see how best to put an end to the two-year-old conflict, which has claimed more than 50,000 lives.

These latest talks wrap up the group's investigations. Members are now compiling a report, which will include details of the Darfur conflict's history, military operations, humanitarian situation, the status of the African Union's mission in Sudan, and recommendations on how to end the conflict.

Mr. Katuntu said, for peace to come to Darfur, the government and the rebels must go beyond merely negotiating cease-fires and humanitarian arrangements to instead tackle the political issues that have caused the conflict.

The committee's secretary, Gambian legislator Halifa Sallah, also issued a stern warning to the warring parties not to let the fighting continue.

"The Sudanese government and armed opposition are also facing (the) challenge of relevance," Mr. Sallah said. "If the people of Sudan end up having more trust for people outside of Sudan to maintain their security and stability, then they would have also lost the battle of being sovereign representatives of a sovereign people."

The committee's meeting with the rebel group took place at the same time as a two-day summit in Chad in which several heads of state, United Nations officials, and others discussed ways to end the conflict.

On the sidelines of the summit, the Sudanese government and rebel representatives agreed to resume their stalled peace talks with the aim of signing a peace accord, and put in place what they called "a total and definitive ceasefire."

Talks between the warring parties have been in limbo since December.