Since 11 August 2005 almost all the websites which are concerned with the Sudanese Conflict in Darfur are overwhelmed by statements and articles by individuals from the entourage of Minni Arku Minawi, Secretary General of Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A). The main theme of these articles and statement is that the AU and UN agreed to postpone the Sixth Round of the Peace Talks which was expected to begin by 24 August 2005 at the request of al-Amana al-‘Amma (General Secretariat) of the SLM/A because the movement needs to hold a general membership meeting/ conference in al-maidan (the front or liberated areas).
They reiterate that such meeting is very important because it will better structure the movement as it is currently led by three individuals namely Abdelwahid M. A. Nour, Khamis A. Abdalla and Minni A. Minawi. They further repeat that the military leaders who are “the legitimate representatives” of poor Dafurians and other marginalized Sudanese citizens strongly support those who called for immediate general membership meeting in “al-maidan”. The statements clearly discredited Abdelwahid and Khamis and described them as not really concerned with the suffering of Darfurians and other marginalized people whose rights they claim to defend.
On the other hand, these articles and statements praise Mr. Minni Arku Minawi and make him a superhero and the only legitimate defender of the marginalized peoples’ rights. The name of Mr. Yan Pronk, UN Special Envoy to Sudan, Mrs. Mariana Nolte and other UN employees are invoked to legitimize the idea of immediate general membership meeting in “al-maidan” as if Mr. Pronk and his colleagues are part of Minni’s entourage.
As an observer and member of SLM I would like to clarify the followings:
1) The idea of the general membership meeting is an excellent idea but Minni and his faction are using it as a disguise for politics of exclusion because:
a) The 34 individuals who Minni’s entourage recognized as the official team of the Fifth Round of Sudanese Talks on Darfur in Abuja were authorized to remain in Abuja for more days to finalize the project of the structure of our movement after the Declaration of Principles was signed;
b) The team of 34 individuals included more than six military commanders representing all troops of the SLM/A;
c) With exception of the military commanders who were expected to return to Darfur, the rest of the team was supposed to join the President, Vice President and Secretary General in Tripoli and submit the plan of structure to them;
d) The three leaders were supposed to adopt the structure, nominate individuals in the positions included in the structure and declare it to the public in a meeting that would have included every SLM member in Tripoli;
e) Minni posted a statement in a website in which he announced that any structure of SLM should come from a general membership meeting that will take place in “al-maidan”;
f) The statement was posted about two or three days before the team members who remained in Abuja came to Tripoli;
g) After those who remained in Abuja came to Tripoli, Minni stuck to his opinion of general membership meeting in “al-maidan” and members of his entourage from the team that designed the plan of structure joined him in his opinion;
h) Others came out with a compromising idea that a general membership meeting be held in Kufra (Libya) on 8 August 2005, but the Minnists refused that idea either arguing that the chief commander, M. Juma’a Haggar, insisted that the meeting be held in “al-maidan”;
i) Two individuals from the other side spoke with Mr. M. J. Haggar and reported that the latter agreed that the conference be held on 8 August 2005 at Kufra, but an individual from Minni’s side who spoke with Haggar insisted that Mr. Haggar said otherwise;
j) After almost two weeks of fruitless meetings between all other members of the team on one side and Minni’s entourage on the other, the former decided to stop the meetings because they found that the meetings were leading to nowhere;
k) Like their usual tradition of deciding issues in the absence of other members of SLM/A (see J. Haggar’s statement of February 2005; A. Minawi’s statement of February 2005; A. Dawsa’s statement of June 2005; and M. Hussein’s statement of June 2005), Minni and his entourage contacted AU and UN to postpone the talks. All the other members of SLM/A knew about the postponement of the talks on the internet like anybody else.
2) There is nothing that can be referred to as “al-maidan” (the front/the liberated area) as SLM/A brigades are not under one command. There are liberated areas whose troops are only under Minni’s command, others under Khamis’s command, others under Abdelwahid’s command and still others who are possibly under other individuals’ command yet they all consider themselves as troops of SLM/A waiting for a good leadership to unite them.
3) Based on a quick observation any general membership meeting which is held in Minni’s “al-maidan” will at least exclude 85% of SLM/A membership. Minni is leading a tiny belligerent faction of SLA that often exposes the movement to the condemnations of international community and makes media auras that they are the only ones defending the victimized population of Darfur. Therefore, any decision that comes out of it will never be legitimate.
4) The words “the commanders (SLA commanders) are the legitimate representatives of the victimized Darfurians and other marginalized people of the Sudan” are often repeated by individuals of Minni’s entourage but military commanders of different brigades and different ethnic backgrounds including commanders that are Zagawa believe that the story of genocide in Darfur would have not reached the international community this fast had military and civilian efforts not joined together-specially those who documented atrocities and reported them to the related international organizations.
5) Well disciplined commanders and soldiers do not exclude civilians by calling themselves “legitimate representatives” because that dismisses the role of civilians. This type of military mentality definitely leads to a military dictatorship which Darfurians and Sudanese in general will never accept.
6) A colleague from Minni’s entourage stated in a recent article that individuals who arrived in Abuja before the arrival of the “Chief Negotiator” could not do anything as the files were with the latter. However, he should know that 75% of the 34 individuals whom they referred to as “official team” never saw these files. The individuals whom the author discredited as did not know what to do until the “chief negotiator” came, were the ones who strongly commented on the document twice before the “chief negotiator” came.
7) The same individuals whom the author describes as “did not know what to do in the absence of the chief negotiator” were the ones who drafted all the copies the DOP from the SLM side except the very final one, yet they never saw the chief negotiator’s files.
8) After the teams were reduced to four or five individuals from each party to the conflict for semi-direct talks, individuals from Minni’s side (including the chief negotiator) excluded the other individuals.
9) The main objective of the statement of complaint which Mr. Abdeljabbar Dawsa, submitted to the mediators, observers and partners about the presence of individuals who were not part of the “official team” (during the Fifth Round of the Talks) was to exclude the contribution of the others.
10) In his presentation which I attended the “chief negotiator” completely excluded the hawakeer (communal-land) and compensation for the losses and focused on power and economic sharing as if the government of Khartoum did not murder people and took their property away including the land. Thanks to marginalized members of SLM/A who insisted that communal-land rights and compensation are indispensable in Abuja Peace Talks.
As the AU and UN have already shifted the date for the Sixth Round of the Sudanese Peace Talks on Darfur in Abuja, I suggest that other parties to the talks (JEM and GOS), AU, UN, mediators, partners and observers give more time to the SLM/A to better structure itself by holding its general membership meeting in a country that is acceptable to the majority of its leaders. I see parties to the conflict, mediators, partners and observers often repeat that the talks have to resume quickly for the sake of the victimized population of Darfur in displacement and refugee camps, but I think that sustainable ceasefire and justice to the victims is more important than negotiating while the violations continue. Therefore I suggest the followings for sustainable ceasefire:
1) The parties to the conflict should honor the ceasefire and humanitarian agreements by avoiding any single atrocity against civilians and stopping all conflicts within themselves and between each other.
2) AU, UN, mediators, partners, observers and international human rights and humanitarian organizations shall closely monitor and report all violations.
3) Any further violations by any party to the conflict shall immediately reduce that party to a terrorist body unless it singles out the perpetrators and report them immediately to the international community.
4) The ICC has to proceed with the indictment and trial of the first 52 suspects as that will encourage parties to the conflict to abide by ceasefire and humanitarian agreements.
5) The UN Security Council has to issue a resolution for the formation of an independent commission for the assessment of human and material losses, physical and psychological traumas and estimation of fair compensation and reparation for the victims.
I urge Minni and his faction to stop the political games on the internet and join other members of SLM/A to decide for a quick meeting that will elect strong leaders for a transitional period. The meeting has to be held in a place other than maidan sometime in October 2005. The transitional leadership will lead the SLM/A until the Comprehensive Peace Agreement is reached. Then it will call for another general membership meeting anywhere in the Sudan to restructure the movement and modify its strategies and objectives in accordance with the new circumstances.
I realized that there are individuals who contributed significantly to the development of SLM/A, but are awaiting an invitation by Abdelwahid, Minni or Khamis. However, they have to understand that their contribution to the SLM/A is no less than that of these three men. I recently came across an e-mail message by Dr. Hussein Alhaj in which he contributed with his opinion for the forthcoming round of talks. The most striking point in that e-mail is its one sentence introduction which could be translated as: “Although our brothers at the leadership of the movements ignore us for consultation, we will continue sending them our opinions.” Individuals such as Hussein Alhaj who spent nights and days working for the cause of victimized population of Darfur do not need to be invited. They can make initiatives and call for the meetings that they see as important.
Gamal A. Adam