Eight Darfur rebel groups say they have agreed on a common negotiating platform for peace talks with the Sudanese government.  Mediators from the African Union and the United Nations met with the rebels in the Tanzania city of Arusha for four days. Officials say the rebels reached the agreement Monday on issues such as power and wealth sharing, security, and providing access to humanitarian groups. The rebels say they want to discuss their platform with the government within two or three months. 

Omer Ismail is a Darfurian with ENOUGH, a Washington-based advocacy organization set up to raise awareness about the Darfur crisis.  He told VOA the rebels' agreement on a common negotiating position is welcome news.

?The very meeting in Arusha is a good sign that the Darfurian factions finally realized that it is important for them to get together to harmer out an agreement to go to the coming negotiations, hopefully that is going to take place very soon, with one vision and one negotiating position?and also to articulate the demands of the people of Darfur. That is the most important thing. It is not about their organizations or the individuals. It is about the people of Darfur of which about six million people are affected by this war,? he said.

The Arusha meeting was boycotted by Abdel Wahid Nur who leads the large rebel Sudan Liberation Movement group.  But Ismail said the focus should be on the people of Darfur.

?I don?t know why Abdel Wahid Nur was absent. He is not only absent from the negotiations or the discussions, but he is also absent from Darfur, and he is trying to run an organization through remote control, and that is not going to work. Nonetheless, at the end of the day, I think everybody should think about the people of Darfur and how to end this tragedy as soon as possible,? Ismail said.

He hopes the rebels and the Sudanese government, when they finally meet, would be able to find a negotiated settlement to the Darfur conflict that put the displaced people of Darfur first.

?The important thing is that we have a settlement that is going to address the issue of power sharing and wealth sharing and all that. But above all, we need to bring the Darfurians to Darfur. These are the people that are going to execute this agreement that is coming. The warring factions, the government of Sudan or anybody else are not going to implement this agreement. The people of Darfur are going to implement this agreement,? he said.

Ismail said whatever happens, there must be accountability for the crimes committed during the Darfur crisis.

?There is not going to be any closure to this issue without accountability. The people who perpetrated these heinous crimes should not get away with murder. This is very important. That is something that is coming later after we bring the people back to their original places,? Ismail said.