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When Will Darfur Mediators Learn? By Suliman A. Giddo*
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Oct 30, 2007 - 8:49:50 AM

 

When Will Darfur Mediators Learn?

By Suliman A. Giddo*

 

The time has come for the international community to learn from its previous mistakes in Darfur. The Abuja talks were a failure. At Abuja, inexcusable reasons Ė misjudgments and miscalculations -- were given for the root causes of the conflict. The talks also proved an underestimation of the rebelís power on the ground. Thus the international community forced an inadequate and unequal Abuja Peace Agreement: it fell apart before it was even signed.

 

The Peace Agreement, signed in May 2006, has escalated the conflict and hastened to spread it to more areas than ever before. The violations spread to the entire region within the last 18 months, including the killing over ten African Union soldiers of the peace keeping forces in Darfur. This is a result of a high level of frustration and depression among the fighting parties. The disputants felt uncomfortable with the nearly defenseless African Union forces whose inadequate mandate (and equipment) barely allows them to protect themselves.

 

The main role of the mediators is to treat the conflicting parties equally; this means with absolutely no discrepancies and no privileges of one side over the other. Identifying the location and choosing the time convenient to both parties will bring more credibility to the role of the mediators. The Darfur conflict is not that simple, it has deeply-rooted causes (pre-2003) that need to be addressed properly; and there are multiple players, especially on the rebelís side. They all need to be consulted: fairly, equally, and respectfully.

 

 Before any negotiation, mediators should work with a plan towards unifying the different rebel factions under agreed-upon positions to represent their mutual interest. In this way, the mediators could reframe those ideas to serve the purpose of the resolution. Rebels have to appoint one delegation to represent all rebel factions and to be injected with civil society and community leaders and women from IDP camps. This will reduce the tension and eliminate spoilers; give the ownership to all rebels and others to pursue better implementation tools to any agreement achieved.

 

The arrangements for the Libyan talks were made without proper consultation with the key players in the conflict, SLA and JEM. The rest of the rebels, most of whom are boycotting the talks, felt that their voice wasnít heard by the mediators at all.   Here we are looking to bring the disputing parties to the negotiation table; so all parties, regardless of their diverse ideas, their relative power on the ground and other differences, should be consulted to identify a site and a time for talks. This did not happen with the current meeting and so many parties were not consulted for the preparation of the talks. Thus, the Libya meeting should be used as a platform to establish a better relationship within the disputed parties, but not as the ability to implement whatever agreement should ever reached.

 

To avoid wasting more resources and time, while people are dying in Darfur, mediators would do better to consider the best alternatives to come with a resolution. This talk has to be postponed for at least for three months: 1) the first four weeks to hold caucus sessions among the rebels to reduce the gap between their political leaders and field commanders on the ground; 2) to come up with a unified plan among all rebels; 3) to appoint their delegation; and 4) to train this delegation with negotiation skills. During this time, the mediators have to take the opportunity to consult for an agreed upon site and specific date for the negotiation. As the implementation of this type of peace agreement needs civil societies to back it, the presence of Darfuri organizations would be a crucial part in the peace process and its implementation on the ground. Community leaders also have a significant role to play in the peace negotiation: they have the task to publicize the agreement among their constituencies in Darfur.

 

For the negotiations to succeed, rebels have to come as a unified body, with specific objectives and clear negotiation positions, and represented by one delegation. The government of Sudan has to come with its full power and a faithful intention to end this conflict, without looking for more fragmentation among the rebels, and without underestimating the rebelís power.   They must conclude with a sincere and trustworthy negotiation to achieve and bring peace to the region.

 

 

 

 

*    The author is Co-Founder and President of Darfur peace and Development Org . based in Washington DC , www.darfurpeace.org , he is also Research Assistant/ PHD Candidate at George Mason University , Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution

 

 

 



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