Articles and Analysies
Will UN Envoy Eliason Do His Homework on Darfur? By Dr. El-tahir Adam El-faki
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Jan 14, 2008 - 7:39:57 AM

Will UN Envoy  Eliason Do His Homework on Darfur ?

By Dr. El-tahir Adam El-faki


The turtle is slow but certainly walks with a steady pace and a focussed mind to reach its final target. Mr Eliason, the UN envoy to Sudan is unquestionably not a turtle but definitely looks like the complacent rabbit that contested the turtle. He took his dose of sleep and when he woke up it was too late to catch up with the events in Sirte in Libya on the 27th October 2007 . The whole story was that Mr. Eliason is but an indolent, less energetic man compounded by incompetence and failure to understand the dynamics of the Darfur problem. Compared with Mr. Pronk, his predecessor, he seems to have either forgotten to do his homework or was too complacent to wait for the last minutes.

The story began with Mr Eliason showing enthusiasm when the secretary General to the UN Mr. Ban Ki Moon appointed him last January 2007. He started with shuttle diplomacy to the Ethiopian Capital of Addis Ababa. He then made a one-day visit to the rebel leaders waiting for reforming their National Redemption Front in Abeche in Eastern Chad at the end of March 2007. He stopped in some chosen refugee camps in Darfur under the careful watch of the government security agents. He arrived there in his fine blue suit in the hot summer weather and was sweating hard when he emerged out of his air-conditioned four-wheel drive vehicle. That was the moment when he realised it would be tough and hot for him as well. It must have been his desire then to make few rounds to Khartoum where it is nice and cosy around the Palace and the luxurious hotels. It was subsequently simple to make modest diplomatically worded reports to his masters in New York and tells them that all is going very well in the preparation for the start of peace talks in Darfur . Up to the last week before the commencement of the peace talks in Sirte in Libya he told the UN and the American administration that all rebel movements except Abdel Wahid’s group would attend. He neither consulted the rebels nor arranged for any dialogue with the stakeholders in Darfur . Invitations were sent by phone on the 19th of October telling all rebels to come and sign a ceasefire agreement with the GoS on the 21-23rd before engaging on the real talks on the 27th of October. The letter of invitation was not received by the rebels till the day of start of the actual talks. There were no other agendas and the invitation was inclusive to whoever may cause real, imaginary or potential threat to the peace in Darfur . The Internet, Electronic and the fictional movements jumped on the bandwagon and off to Sirte they went. Eliason woke up late in that day to find out that the real rebel players (JEM and SLA unity), refused to participate in this ridicule.   In his inaugural speech to the conference President Qadhaafi questioned the success of the conference without JEM and its counterpart the SLA and indicated it is doomed to fail. He stopped short of telling the unwelcome visitors to leave.

Where did it all go wrong for Mr Eliason? It was from the beginning that he gave a wrong signal and erroneous messages by exposing his tactics regarding the invitations to those who should attend. The Arusha preparatory process was aimed at trapping the main rebel movements into a legal process or jargon where as soon as they sit with the others they eventually become partners in the future talks and would not be easy to exclude. He managed to convince them that Arusha would never be an open ticket to the final negotiations in Libya . It turned out to be certainly the only ticket to the negotiations and contrary to his original claim. As he knew the contradictions he made he kept the invitation list secret to the last minute thinking that rebels will come any way. Another thing is his failure to organise dialogues for the Darfurian people before the actual talks start. The rebels were aiming to hold consultations with Darfur civil society and take their conclusions and recommendations to Sirte. That did not happen. Mr Eliason extensively consulted the GoS and took its blessings before engaging in any step. To some extent Mr Ban Ki Moon was to blame for setting the precedence for him when he came out after a meeting with Dr Lam Akol the Sudanese Foreign Affairs Minister to announce the venue and the date of the negotiations without consulting the others. All turned out to be a fiasco and a big blunder by master and follower. Qadhaafi telling them it is doomed to fail was the price they paid and deserved.

Now Mr Eliason is left in limbo and not knowing what to do! Should he call for another round of talks? And whom is he willing this time to invite or exclude from the talks after he formerly brought them as partners for peace? What about the new changes on the ground in Darfur with some of the hybrid forces trying to establish itself in the region and the JEM forces expanding their territories and capturing most towns in Western Darfur ?

It will be extremely difficult for him to come up with a working policy to revive his fortunes and redeem his image. And it will be even harder for him to find a new direction or where to start. He certainly needs someone to devise a road map for his redemption and not a road map for the peace process in Darfur .

Dr. El-tahir El-faki is the Chairman of the Legislative Council for The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). He can be reached at [email protected]


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