Yesterday, the Sudanese government delegation for the peace talks that are taking place in the South Sudanese capital of Juba, met with a number of native administration leaders from the east of the country. The leaders proposed a separate peace conference to be held inside Sudan.
Mohamed El Taayshi, member of Sudan’s Sovereign Council and the government delegation in Juba reported to the press in Juba on Thursday that they had a “lengthy meeting” with the 30 community leaders who were flown in with a presidential aircraft from eastern Sudan the day before.
He confirmed “incorrect information and misrepresentations among many” concerning the situation in the eastern part of the country. “The former regime concluded agreements with certain persons and groups, which caused distrust and fear among many eastern Sudanese,” he said. “This time, there will be no agreement with any person.”
The Juba Declaration of Principles, signed by the government and the armed movements on September 12, stipulates that the root causes for the armed struggle and civil wars in Sudan must be addressed.
El Taayshi acknowledged that eastern Sudan suffers from marginalisation, injustice, underdevelopment, and underrepresentation in the various government institutions. “Therefore, it was agreed to tackle the eastern Sudan track in cooperation with a comprehensive representation of all stakeholders in the East.”
The spokesman for the eastern Sudanese community leaders, Taha Faki, stated that “We discussed our reservations with the head of the government delegation, as we hold the opinion that these youngsters at the forum, though from eastern Sudan, do not represent us.
“That is the reason for the misunderstandings,” he explained. “We came here unarmed, as we want to reach peace by peaceful means. We do not count on the Juba negotiations, meant to settle conflicts with the armed movements, but on a comprehensive peace conference for eastern Sudan to be held within our country.”
Nazir Mohamed Abusin of the Shukriya tribe commented that “We came to support our brothers of the Sudan Revolutionary Front [SRF rebel alliance] concerning the eastern Sudan track. It is good that the round will be completed in the presence of the real stakeholders.
“We, as native administration leaders are able to heal the wounds and reach peace. We will discuss the eastern Sudanese track with the SRF, so that they will reach their peace agreement with the government,” he added.
Peace talks between the new Sudanese interim government and the SRF, and Khartoum and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North faction led by Abdelaziz El Hilu (SPLM-N El Hilu) in the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan, began immediately after the formation of the Council of Ministers, in early September.
The deliberations concluded with the signing of the Juba Declaration by the government delegation and the SRF, that paved the way for the actual negotiations.
The second round started on October 14. Four days later, the SPLM-N El Hilu and the government delegation reached an agreement on a roadmap for peace negotiations concerning South Kordofan. On October 21, the government and the SRF signed an agreement renewing the cessation of hostilities for humanitarian purposes, and paving the way for the launch of talks for peace in Darfur and Blue Nile state.
Yet on October 22, the South Sudanese mediation adjourned the negotiations for one month, “to give the parties time for consultations”.
The third round of peace negotiations between the Sudan government and the armed movements resumed in Juba on December 10. It was decided that five track teams would deal separately with Darfur, the Two Areas (South Kordofan and Blue Nile state), eastern, central, and northern Sudan. The armed movements agreed to present framework papers for the separate tracks, after which the government will respond to the proposals.
To make Juba peace talks inclusive, the SRF established a joint mechanism with the government on December 18, for the involvement of the main stakeholders of the peace talks: the displaced and refugees, native administration leaders, and civil society activists. It is unclear so far how the Forces for Freedom and Change can participate in the talks.
The separate talks between Khartoum and the SPLM-N El Hilu went less smoothly, as the rebel faction adheres to its long-standing position regarding a secular state, while the government does not seem to intend to cancel the Sharia (Islamic law), imposed by the regime of Jaafar Nimeri in September 1983, soon.
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