Darfur movements reject government’s referendum proposal
The Darfuri armed movements rejected the government’s intention to hold a referendum on the administrative status of Darfur. Sudan’s top federal official on Darfur, Dr. Ghazi Salah Al Din, had announced yesterday “we will start arrangement for a referendum to determine the administration situation of Darfur.”
The Darfuri armed movements rejected the government’s intention to hold a referendum on the administrative status of Darfur. Sudan’s top federal official on Darfur, Dr. Ghazi Salah Al Din, had announced yesterday “we will start arrangement for a referendum to determine the administration situation of Darfur.”Unlike the South Sudan referendum, the proposed Darfur referendum would not offer the population the choice of secession. Rather, the referendum would decide whether to restore “Greater Darfur,” the single provincial government that preceded the existing three state governments of North, South and West Darfur. The province was divided in 1994 by President Omar Al Bashir’s Salvation Revolution government. The reform made the region’s largest ethnic group, the Fur, a minority in all three states. Dr. Tijani Sese, the head of the Liberation and Justice Movement, is a former governor of the united province.
Darfuri rebels have long insisted on the re-unification of the province as part of any peace deal, while the government consistently refused. The referendum thus had been one idea considered by the present Doha mediators as a possibility for resolving the impasse. Given this context, it was notable that Dr. Ghazi Salah Al Din yesterday said the referendum could be drawn up according to the Darfur Peace Agreement of 2006, rather than the newly drafted Doha peace proposal. This 2006 agreement is broken in nearly all respects; the main rebel signatory, SLA-Minawi, has fought the government openly since mid-December. Ghazi also said the vote could take place within three months – a very ambitious timetable given the yet ongoing war.
Rebel negotiators rejected the referendum plan as a tactical move. The Justice and Equality Movement spokesman Ahmed Hussein Adam said the issue had been under negotiation at Doha, and the government’s announcement was an effort to derail the negotiation process and “blackmail the people of Darfur.”
The JEM and LJM have formed a joint committee to establish a unified position on the issue. According to Abdullah Mursal, LJM spokesman, Ghazi’s statement is “the last nail in the Doha Forum and the abolition of the negotiations.” He said the government has turned from negotiations to a strategy of “peace from within.” Mursal questioned how a referendum could be conducted in the absence of the return of the refugees, and he said the rebels’ joint committee would inform the international mediators of their position on the situation.
Photo: Ghazi Salah Al Din, Government of Sudan official in charge of the ‘Darfur file’.