Sudan, Darfur rebels to take next step: Ceasefire talks in January

(UPDATE 16:00) The two armed movements which signed the pre-negotiation agreement with the Sudanese government in Berlin yesterday affirmed that the next step is to negotiate about a cessation of hostilities starting mid-January 2019. The DDPD follow-up commission is meeting on Sunday.

Jibril Ibrahim (R) and Minni Minawi, rebel leaders of the JEM and SLM-MM respectively (file photo)

The two armed movements which signed the pre-negotiation agreement with the Sudanese government in Berlin yesterday affirmed that the next step is to negotiate about a cessation of hostilities starting mid-January 2019. The DDPD follow-up commission is meeting on Sunday.

According to one of the two rebel leaders, Minni Minawi of the SLM-MM, the negotiations on the mutual cessation of hostilities requires the presence of a number of military leaders and politicians.

“The agreement signed yesterday in Berlin is an old document put forward by the SLM-MM and JEM since the end of 2016, but its signature was delayed as a result of the disagreement with the government in one of its items,” Minawi claimed.

This also caused a delay in the talks he and Jibril Ibrahim, head of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), had in their meeting at the African Union headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa last week.

Cessation of hostilities

Last week the rebel parties agreed with an amendment to the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), to remove the words ‘Darfur’ and ‘Sudan’ from the agreement. Apparently this amendment was made because the two armed movements do not wish to talk about the problems of Darfur or Sudan, but to include issues of democracy, economy and so forth which emanate from Khartoum.

In the past, both sides have accused the other of breaching its unilateral cessation of hostilities

The next step in the process is for both sides to agree on a mutual cessation of hostilities. In the past, both Khartoum and the rebel movements have announced unilateral ceasefires and extended them multiple times. The rebels in the conflict areas in Darfur, and also South Kordofan and Blue Nile, have accused the Sudanese military of violating its own unilateral ceasefire more than once – and vice versa.

The stage of the talks about a cessation of hostilities is set in the beginning of the new year, with the start of the 'dry season'. In the past years the military and rebel forces in Darfur's Jebel Marra mountains used this drier period to gain ground on one another. The resulting clashes and bombardments inflicted losses, displacement and insecurity among civilian populations.

Radio Dabanga reported in the early months of 2016 (when more than 100,000 people were displaced), 2017 and 2018 about the renewed fighting in Jebel Marra between holdout rebel groups and the Sudanese army, air force and paramiltiary forces. Each year, tens to hundreds of thousands of people were displaced.

JEM: Space for SLM-AW to join

Ahmed Tugud, leading negotiator of the JEM

Ahmed Tugud, the chief negotiator of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), said that by signing the agreement the negotiating process and the peace process would be resumed according to the amended Doha agreement.

“We have approved that the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur would be the basis for negotiations,” he explained in an interview with Radio Dabanga. “An agreement that results after the negotiations could be a new peace document containing all the issues related to the crisis.

“At this stage, we decided that the agreement in the negotiations would be not only for the two movements, but all the armed forces in the area.” This would include the last of the large holdout rebel movements in Darfur, the SLM led by Abdelwahid El Nur (SLM-AW). El Nur has refrained from joining any official talks in the past.

Tugud: “Space has been allocated for all the armed forces in the area to join this process from the beginning, to agree on all arrangements and issues, and then begin serious political negotiations that address the crisis' aspects.”

Follow-up Commission meets Sunday

On Sunday the commission for follow-up of the DDPD will meet in Khartoum to discuss the newest developments. The chairman of the Implementation Follow-up Commission (IFC), Dr. Maged bin Mutlaq El Qahtani, Qatar's Special Envoy to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Counterterrorism, Mediation and Conflict Resolution, and the African Union-United Nation Joint Special Representative and Joint Chief Mediator for Darfur, Jeremiah Mamabolo are expected to inform the media afterwards.

The IFC is the major mechanism for monitoring implementation of the DDPD that has been brokered by Qatar. Signatories are the Sudanese government, the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), the National Liberation and Justice Party (NLJP), the Sudan Liberation Movement-Second Revolution (SLM-SR*) faction led by Abulgasim Imam El Haj, and the Justice and Equality Movement(JEM)-Sudan faction led by Bakheit Abdelkarim Dabajo.

Also present Sunday are representatives of Canada, Chad, China, Egypt, France, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States of America, the African Union, the European Union, the League of Arab States, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The AU-UN hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur, Unamid, is also a member and facilitator of this meeting.

* The SLM-AW, that, together with the Justice and Equality Movement took up arms against the Khartoum government in 2002-03, has witnessed a number of splits. The largest one was the breakaway of a group led by Minni Minawi in 2006. They were divided on the issue of the Darfur Peace Agreement. In 2013-14, other smaller groups defected: the Liberation Movement for Justice (LMJ-TH), SLM-Unity, and the SLM-SR.