Doubts raised over Sudanese President's ceasefire in Darfur
November 14, 2008
KHARTOUM: Sudan's President, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, has called an immediate ceasefire in Darfur and begun a campaign to disarm controversial militias in a speech dismissed by rebels as a propaganda stunt for the West.
The decision followed recommendations from a state-sponsored peace forum established by Mr Bashir after the International Criminal Court called for his arrest in July. The Justice and Equality Movement, a Darfur rebel group, called it a "PR ceasefire".
"I hereby announce our immediate, unconditional ceasefire between the armed forces and warring factions, provided that an effective monitoring mechanism be put into action and be observed by all involved parties," Mr Bashir said on Wednesday.
He said he was starting a campaign to disarm militias and restrict the use of weapons in Darfur - an apparent reference to government-aligned forces such as the Janjaweed. Analysts said many such deals had failed since the conflict began in 2003.
Despite publicly dismissing the threat of arrest for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in Darfur, Mr Bashir is desperate to persuade the United Nations Security Council to suspend the proceedings.
He established the Sudan People's Forum to show his commitment to peace. The forum also recommended releasing political prisoners and compensating people displaced by fighting.
The International Crisis Group's Horn of Africa project director, Fouad Hikmat, said any attempt to disarm militias before a peace deal would fail. But he said the ceasefire was positive as Government forces had been the aggressors in Darfur recently.