Envoys from the AU and the United Nations have been working for weeks to prepare for peace talks between the government and rebels in Sudan's Darfur region. Yet one of the rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement, says it will reassess its decision to take part after a spate of government raids. From Nairobi, Nick Wadhams reports that an African Union official says Khartoum must take all steps necessary to ensure the talks take place.
The biggest raid occurred Tuesday in the Kalma refugee camp. Sudan's state news agency said police arrested 19 people on accusations that they were responsible for attacks on police stations in Darfur, including one in which a policeman was killed.
The African Union envoy for Darfur, Salim Ahmed Salim, tells VOA News that the Kalma camp raid created more tension in Darfur.
"I'm concerned about what has happened in Kalma camp and I'm concerned about the implications of that," he said. "Anything which really creates more tension certainly cannot be helpful. The government has primary responsibility for security in the area and I think the government has to create the necessary conditions for these negotiations to start on good footing."
The Sudan Liberation Movement accuses Khartoum of trying to force people out of Kalma. Some 200,000 people have died in four years of fighting in Darfur, and more than two million have been displaced. Many have fled to Kalma.
Salim says he plans to discuss what happened in Kalma when he meets with officials from Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's government on Saturday.
Salim met Wednesday with Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol. Afterward, he said he believed the peace talks should take place in October, though U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will determine the final date.
Despite the raid on Kalma and the rebels' response, Salim says that the negotiations must take place as soon as possible.
"The longer the negotiations are delayed, the more difficult the situation becomes on the ground, the more desperate people become, especially in the IDP camps," he said.
"There's nothing worse than [for] people to lose hope. But I think it's all the more necessary when you have situations like this that you must start the negotiations because only through the negotiations will you be able to have durable settlements, sustainable arrangements to make sure that things like that don't happen," he added.
Salim and his counterpart from the United Nations, Jan Eliasson, oversaw a meeting of various Darfur rebel groups in Arusha, Tanzania earlier this month, in which the factions agreed to a unified position heading into talks with Khartoum. That came after the U.N. Security Council approved a 26,000-strong peacekeeping force for Darfur, which is expected to be deployed by mid-2008.