Under the terms of the peace deal that was prepared in Doha, the Government of Sudan would stop its preparations for the referendum on the administrative status of Darfur. The top government negotiator announced that the previous arrangements would be cancelled because they were made according to the Abuja Agreement of 2005. The National Elections Commission had scheduled the referendum for July 1 or earlier, though little progress was made toward actually setting up the poll. Unlike the South Sudan referendum, the Darfur referendum would not have offered 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. El Tijani Sese, the head of the Liberation and Justice Movement, is a former governor of the united province.
Rebel negotiators had rejected the government’s referendum plan as a negotiating ploy – a plan that could only be implemented in government-held areas and without the participation of most displaced and refugees.
During an interview with Radio Dabanga, Dr. Amin Hassan Omar, the lead negotiator in the government delegation, said that in the event of agreement at Doha on the issue of the referendum, the Presidency of the Republic and the new provincial authorities would work to agree on the date of the alternative process. He stressed that the referendum should be held before the passing of the permanent constitution.
The peace deal, as proposed, would establish a provincial authority tasked with implementing the agreement in all three states of Darfur. The state governments would not be abolished, at least not during an interim period. This arrangement represents a compromise between the rebel demand for a single provincial government and the Government’s insistence on the status quo or even the further division into five states. According to Dr. Amin Hassan Omar, the new provincial authority does not represent a new level of government but rather just an executive body taking its powers form the articles of the peace agreement. He said the responsibilities of the new provincial body would not clash with the constitutional powers of the state. Rather, it will have a supervisory authority in issues regarding the agreement.