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ANALYSIS-Concessions needed to end Sudan's Darfur crisis
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Oct 29, 2008 - 9:59:51 AM

ANALYSIS-Concessions needed to end Sudan's Darfur crisis

Wed 29 Oct 2008, 11:36 GMT

By Alaa Shahine

KHARTOUM, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Initiatives by Sudan and its allies to end the Darfur conflict are unlikely to succeed unless they propose substantial concessions and focus on long-term solutions rather than a quick fix.

International experts estimate 200,000 people have died in Darfur in west Sudan since mostly African rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government and Arab militias in 2003. Khartoum puts the death toll at 10,000.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who could face an an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes in the Darfur region of west Sudan, unveiled a peace initiative this month.

His Arab friends, wary of ICC steps against an Arab head of state, are also trying to arrange talks between the government and rebel groups in Qatar on ending a conflict in which United Nations officials say 2.5 million people have fled their homes.

But the proposals have been dismissed by rebels and displaced people in Darfur as an attempt to help Bashir avoid an ICC indictment.

Although political analysts say it is too soon to write off any Sudanese or Arab peace efforts, they say any moves to attract the divided rebels to talks are likely to fail if they are hasty and badly prepared.

"The (Bashir) initiative alone will not solve the issue of Darfur," said Fouad Hikmat, director of the Horn of Africa Project at the International Crisis Group think-tank.



Since the conflict began in 2003, rebel groups have fragmented, and tribes -- Arabs and African alike -- are now fighting each other over land, cattle and power. Bandits have taken advantage of all this to wreak havoc in the region.

Bashir said the solution to Darfur would be based on principles including ending the violence and the voluntary repatriation of hundreds of thousands of displaced people.

But Hikmat said a sustainable solution was unlikely without a dialogue between tribes in Darfur, where they could discuss issues such as land rights and whether they want Darfur's three states to merge into one semi-autonomous region.

Without this, he said, it would be difficult to implement any resolutions reached at peace talks.

Alex de Waal, an expert on Darfur, said government support for the proposal of a single region would be "a major concession to the popular demand of Darfurians, and a breakthrough" in any talks with the rebels.

Another concession, analysts say, could be giving the single region a vice-presidential seat in the national government.

Sudanese newspapers quoted an influential presidential aide, Nafie Ali Nafie, as saying the proposal of a single Darfur region was a "nightmare".

Other officials have been quoted as saying that issue could wait until talks are held with the rebels.



Rebel disunity remains an obstacle to talks sponsored by any party. More than two years after the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) signed an abortive peace deal with the government, divisions between the rebels have become deeper.

"The resistance forces in Darfur have to unite because not a single power of those that exist can do anything effective," said Suleiman Jamous, a leader of the SLA/Unity faction.

Jamous and a commander of another SLA faction headed by Abdel-Wahed el-Nur said the rebels were trying to unite.

But the prospects of this remain uncertain. Jamous said Nur, who comes from the Fur ethnic group, was still suspicious of rebels who belong to the Zaghawa, another African group.

Rebels boycotted the launch of Bashir's initiative. They have also said they are sceptical about Arab mediation.

De Waal said any hasty preparations based on using the proposed conference as a card to wave against the ICC process would be "a recipe for another failure".

"The main lesson of all Sudanese peace processes is that they must be done right, not right away," he wrote.

Political analysts say Khartoum should focus on persuading the U.N. Security Council to suspend the ICC process by showing it is making real moves towards peace.

A Sudanese government official said one sticking point in talks with Western U.N. Security Council members was the fate of militia leader Ali Kushayb and government minister Ahmed Haroun, who are wanted by the ICC for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Sudan had suggested holding its own trial of Kushayb and inviting Arab and African monitors to it. He said Western powers wanted Sudan to sack Haroun from any government position following Khartoum's refusal to turn him over to the ICC.

The analysts say disarming the militias is also key to a long-term solution but Hikmat said gunmen would not give up their arms until they saw a viable solution to the conflict. (Writing by Alaa Shahine, editing by Jonathan Wright and Timothy Heritage)

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