AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PEOPLE OF DARFUR by Alex de Waal-Consultant to the African Union Mediation
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May 9, 2006 - 11:27:00 PM
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PEOPLE OF DARFUR
“The Darfur Peace Agreement”
What it Means for the People of Darfur
Peace for Darfur
The people of Darfur have suffered more than three years of terrible war, massacre, hunger and displacement at the hands of the Government of Sudan and others. The Darfur Peace Agreement is the first step for peace. We know that many more steps are needed.
The Darfur Peace Agreement was signed in Nigeria on 5 May. It is the work of the African Union together with the United States of America, Great Britain, Canada, the European Union, the United Nations, and other countries. All these foreign governments and organizations agreed every part of it. Everybody in the international community supports it. It will allow Darfurians to return home in safety, to go about their daily lives again without fear for their families and loved ones, and to begin to see the end of their political and economic marginalization.
Now that the Government has signed the Darfur Peace Agreement, the United Nations is able to consider sending soldiers to Darfur to protect the people. The Government of Sudan is even now talking to the United Nations and the United States about bringing a UN protection force in to Darfur.
The Darfur Peace Agreement is 140 pages long and took teams of experts five months to negotiate. This is a short summary of the main points in the Agreement and an explanation of what it means for the people of Darfur.
The Agreement has four main sections as well as a timetable for the different activities - most importantly, the total disarmament of the Janjaweed. The African Union, the Movements and international security experts will monitor this disarmament.
Section one deals with how the Movements will share power with the National Congress Party, and how Darfurians will have their fair share of power in Sudan as a whole.
The main points are:
- The Movements can choose one of their leaders who will become the fourth most senior man in the Presidency. His title is “Senior Assistant to the President” and the President has to involve him in every decision for Darfur.
- A new government body is set up, the “Transitional Darfur Regional Authority.” Its job is to do all the work to make the Peace Agreement real, including helping people return to their homes, providing money for rebuilding, providing compensation, sorting out land ownership, and organizing security. It will be headed by a nominee of the Movements. All the commissions - resettlement, compensation, land etc - will be headed by respected Darfurians nominated by the Movements.
- The Movements will get one Governor and some other government posts in Darfur as well as one Cabinet Minister and 12 seats in the National Assembly. The Movements did not, and cannot, win the war. The government cannot be forced to give away its majority before elections.
- Elections will be held in three years so the people of Darfur can choose their own government. A year later the people of Darfur can choose whether to have one Darfur Region or the three states of North Darfur, South Darfur and West Darfur.
- Darfurians will not have to pay any education fees for five years. They will get preferential treatment in civil service jobs.
Section two deals with making sure that Darfur gets its fair share of Sudan’s wealth and making sure there is enough money for compensation, relief and reconstruction.
· Every person who suffered during the conflict will be able to claim compensation from a special fund. Someone chosen by the Movements will run this fund. The government has agreed to compensate the victims. Not just for their own lives and their children’s lives, but also for their animals, their possessions, their homes, their health and much besides. It has already paid a first installment of $30 million into the fund. More will follow soon. The compensation process is simple and quick. There is even provision for interim compensation payments without a full hearing.
· A special assistance programme will be set up to help every displaced person return home and rebuild their lives in areas where international troops have ensured they will be safe. There will be packages to help people begin to farm again, to keep animals, and to rebuild their houses. There will be assistance to dig wells and provide schools and clinics. Someone chosen by the Movements will run this programme.
· The Government and international donors have promised the biggest-ever programme of rebuilding, which is guaranteed for ten years.
· A special group will study who owns which land in Darfur and sort out disputes. Hawakeer will be the basis for the settlement of land disputes.
· Masars will be demilitarized and protected. Nomads will be able to move freely with their animals once again.
Section three is about security. It aims to stop the fighting immediately and make it possible for people to be safe, so that we can move on to control and disarm the militias, build up a police force that the people trust, and make sure that the rebel fighters are either incorporated into the army or disarmed and helped to build new lives for themselves.
- The most important issue is to stop the fighting. This is not easy. For almost three years the Government and Movements have promised a ceasefire and it has never happened. Because of this, the new Agreement is much tougher. Every army unit, militia or Movement force must confine itself to a particular place and will not be allowed to move. The African Union troops will monitor this closely, supported by international observers. After another six weeks, each military unit has to withdraw to a smaller area, and after another six weeks, to put its heavy guns in a special place where they can be monitored.
- The Government has to control every single militia by restricting it to its own base or its own home community. Attacks are strictly forbidden and will not be permitted.
- IDP camps and the areas around them will become “Demilitarized Zones” where no soldiers or militia are allowed.
- In IDP camps, the people themselves will choose their policemen from the community. Later on, these “community police” will become part of the ordinary police.
- The Janjaweed will be disarmed in stages. First they will not be allowed to roam about. Especially, they must be stopped in any area where there are civilians including people returning home from IDP camps. Then they must give up their heavy guns. Lastly they will be disarmed.
- 4,000 fighters from the Movements will join the national army, with senior command posts from the very first day.
- The PDF will be restricted to their bases and then reduced in size. The police force will be reformed so that policemen are trusted by everyone and can perform their job effectively.
- The leaders of all communities will meet together to decide how they should control their village defence groups. Over time, when peace and stability is restored, everyone will hand over his gun.
Now that the Peace Agreement is signed, the African Union is asking for more troops - including an airborne unit - and more equipment.
Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Reconciliation
Part four of the Agreement is the Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Reconciliation. This is a conference in which tribal and community leaders, women and youth, and all possible groups from every part of Darfur can meet together to resolve their problems. They will set up a “Peace and Reconciliation Council” so that problems between tribes can be solved quickly.
Many people in Darfur are fearful that the Government will not honour the Agreement or that Darfur will return to war again.
Not just the African Union but also every single western country and especially the United States of America back the Agreement. President Bush wrote to Abdel Wahid Nour and Minni Minawi giving them his personal assurance that he will do everything he can to make sure that the Agreement is properly honoured, and that Darfur returns to peace and security, that the land is rebuilt, and that democracy is achieved. International pressure has never been so great. It will not diminish.
Any peace agreement is a compromise between people who have fought and killed one another. We realize that people in Darfur are still deeply afraid and worried about their future. We hope that the Darfur Peace Agreement is the first step towards rebuilding Darfur as a common home for all its people.
Alex de Waal
Consultant to the African Union Mediation
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