The African Union says talks between the Sudanese government and rebel factions to end the four-year conflict in Darfur could start in October this year. The AU?s special envoy for Sudan Salim Ahmed Salim reportedly told reporters Wednesday that the exact date would be set by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and the head of the African Union Commission Alpha Omar Konare. Salim reportedly met Wednesday with Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol.
Earlier this month eight Darfur rebel groups agreed on a common negotiating platform for peace talks with the Sudanese government.
Don Steinberg is vice president for the International Crisis Group that focuses on preventing conflicts around the world. He told VOA that if and when the talks finally begin they would have to address all issues of concern such as wealth and power sharing and humanitarian.
?This is not a process that can be done piece meal. It includes a lot of power sharing arrangement or expanded humanitarian access or a wealth sharing agreement. I would say though that the comprehensive peace agreement signed between the government and the southern movements, those represent the framework through which the government in Khartoum will be democratized, will be sensitized to the problems of regions and their needs for inclusion,? he said
Steinberg said the Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005 was a model agreement because it brought southern leaders into key positions in Khartoum and a share of the oil wealth.
He described as an important step in the peace process the recent Arusha agreement among Darfur rebels on a common platform for negotiation with the Sudanese government.
?It has been essential for the rebel movements in Darfur to come together to present a common negotiating position vis-à-vis the government, and this is a next step in that process,? he said.
Steinberg said any successful outcome of the upcoming Darfur rebels talks with the Sudan government would require the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
?Both sides have been exceptionally slow in meeting the commitments they made in this comprehensive peace agreement, and that means to push ahead rapidly. We are facing key deadlines, and to the extent that the people in both the north and the south believe that that agreement is just words on a peace paper, it would undercut the entire movement toward democracy and economic growth and political stability in Sudan,? he said.
Steinberg said because of its basic philosophy of inclusion and democratic governance of self-determination, the comprehensive peace agreement provides the basis for solving situations like Darfur, Blue Nile, or the Nuba Mountains.