Posted by: APO | 27 October 2007

OP-ED BY UN AND AU SPECIAL ENVOYS FOR DARFUR: A chance to bring peace to Darfur, PUBLISHED IN THE International Herald Tribune, 25 October 07


A chance to bring peace to Darfur

By Jan Eliasson and Salim Ahmed Salim
International Herald Tribune
Thursday, October 25, 2007

The conflict in Darfur has continued in different forms, but with no less
brutality, for over four and a half years. This week there will be  an
opportunity  to stop the fighting and  chart a course toward peace.

On Saturday, the joint United Nations and African Union peace process will
enter the long-awaited negotiations phase in Sirte, Libya. This represents a
milestone in the reinvigorated political process that started early this
year at the request of UN  Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and the AU
commission chairman, Alpha Oumar Konaré. It is indeed a moment of truth and
hope for the people of Darfur.

The peace negotiations aim to reach agreement on a cease-fire and security,
power-sharing and governance, natural-resource use and allocation, return to
land and compensation for those affected by the conflict. The government of
Sudan, parties that committed themselves to the Darfur Peace Agreement of
May 2006, and armed opposition groups, as well as representatives from civil
society in Darfur will participate in different forms and at various stages
of the process.

The negotiations will proceed in concert with several other initiatives.
Deployment of a robust AU and UN peace operation in Darfur is now underway,
as are efforts to enhance stability in the volatile Chad-Sudan border area.

The Sirte talks  will draw on  lessons learned from the negotiations in
Abuja, Nigeria, in 2005 and 2006 which led to the Darfur Peace Agreement.
Unfortunately, that agreement did not have  the support of all parties
engaged in the conflict, nor was it fully endorsed by the people of Darfur.
In the upcoming talks, we are determined to ensure that the people in Darfur
and their interests are  represented.

The situation on the ground in Darfur has changed markedly since the Abuja
talks. The past year has witnessed a proliferation of armed groups as well
as intensified violence among tribes and militia groups. Recently, there has
been an upsurge in fighting between government forces and rebel movements.
These developments have led to worsening humanitarian conditions, despite
the efforts by aid workers.

In light of these changing realities, we  approach our mediation role with
the following principles clearly in view:

The negotiations  need to be as inclusive as possible to ensure that any
agreement secures maximum ownership from those directly affected by it, and
not just those who have taken up arms.

In order to secure a sustainable peace, not all the provisions of previous
agreements can be transplanted into the current environment. Parties will
have to show flexibility and make concessions to reach compromises that work
in today’s environment.

The negotiations will not solve all  the serious problems immediately. Some
issues, like security and compensation, will be dealt with expeditously. For
others, the talks will provide an opportunity to agree on interim solutions
and on a framework for long-term arrangements.

Any peace agreement for Darfur will need to be implemented in parallel with
the North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement  signed in 2005. There cannot
be peace in Darfur without a comprehensive peace throughout Sudan.

As we enter this phase, we are asking  all parties to commit themselves to
an immediate cessation of hostilities, both as a demonstration of commitment
to the political process and, most importantly, because the situation on the
ground urgently demands it.

We are asking all those who can play a role in reaching a successful outcome
of the negotiations to seize this  opportunity.

The government of Sudan needs to establish a credible dialogue with the
movements at an early stage of the talks and be prepared to find workable
solutions to the main issues affecting the people of Darfur. The armed
opposition movements should continue to build internal consensus on the
issues for negotiation.

The international community and regional partners can use their influence to
bring the parties to the table, and to keep them meaningfully engaged in the
political process. Representatives of civil society and tribal leaders must
help us ensure that the interests of the people of Darfur remain the sine
qua non of the negotiations.

We have both been struck by the dignity, integrity and courage of the
ordinary people we have met during our travels and discussions throughout
Darfur.  The courage of these people  must be reciprocated by the
participants at the negotiations in choosing dialogue over war.

<em>Jan Eliasson is the special envoy of the UN secretary general for
Darfur.  Salim Ahmed Salim is the special envoy of the African Union for
Darfur.</em>


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