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PRESS RELEASE FROM THE SUDAN PEACE COMMITTEE

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sudaneseonline.com
7/28/2005 2:19 am

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE SUDAN PEACE COMMITTEE
THE GOVERNMENT OF SUDAN AND ITS REBEL OPPOSITION CONCUR: THE TIME FOR PEACE HAS COME. BUT WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
London, Wednesday July 27th:
At an all-day off-the-record conference and associated plenary meetings in London, government representatives and the main rebel movements have just completed discussions on the future of Sudan.

Speaking on behalf of the organisers (The Sudan Peace Committee comprising The Next Century Foundation and Sudanese Mothers for Peace working in co-operation with the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Strategic Studies) William Morris, Secretary General of the Next Century Foundation states: Conditions in Darfur remain miserable. The desert pasture is wrecked. The villages are burned. The countryside is depopulated. Livestock has been abandoned and wildlife has fled. Nothing is left but wrack and ruin.

Speaking on the record in a plenary meeting in the House of Lords this week, Sudans ambassador to London and leaders of the two main Darfur rebel groups, the JEM (Justice and Equality Movement) and the SLM (Sudanese Liberation Movement), were all challenged to put forward concrete proposals for a peaceful resolution of the current conflict in Sudan.

Participants from South Sudan said the recent North-South peace deal could be a blueprint for peace in the western province of Darfur and in Eastern Sudan, where a lesser-known conflict is now threatening to escalate.

In contrast to most peace talks, the meeting included representatives from opposition movements from both the east and the west of Sudan, as well as the former southern rebel group (now itself a part of the government) the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM). Past talks have tended to focus on conflicts within one particular region at a time, rather than focusing on the need for a comprehensive nation-wide peace. Mr Al-Harith Idriss, a spokesperson of Sudanese Mothers for Peace says, The willingness of those present to engage in broad spectrum discussions could represent a paradigm shift for peacemaking and conflict resolution vis--vis Sudan.

Some speakers were strongly critical of the UK's Department for International Development and the major Humanitarian Organisations for failing to use small on-the-ground NGOs to deliver aid where they could not do so themselves. They felt that any move towards disengagement should be encouraged with an NGO presence on the ground to deliver aid in the countryside of Darfur (rather than in the camps).

The House of Lords meeting followed the confidential conference at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in Whitehall attended by Sudan's Presidential Advisor, Dr Qutbi al-Mahdi.

The organisers of the conference today (28 July 2005) issue this statement following their discussions with the parties:

KEY FINDINGS FROM THE SUDAN PEACE COMMITTEE

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement which has ended more than two decades of north-south conflict is a valuable achievement but it is by no means comprehensive. Conflicts continue in the east and west of the country, and representatives of the main opposition groups emphasise the need for a nation-wide peace strategy. JEM representative Dr Tahir el-Faki says The way to achieve power-sharing is a rotating presidency representing all six regions in Sudan, in such a way that no region can be marginalised or deprived of its fair share.

For Darfur specifically, SLM representative Mr Adam Latif insists Darfurs displaced persons must be allowed to go back today, not tomorrow. He adds that The African Union, the UN and the international community are responsible for creating a suitable environment for displaced persons to return.

JEM representative Dr Tahir el-Faki states We need humanitarian corridors for aid agencies to gain access to Darfur.

Beja Congress Representative Suleiman Dirar highlights the forgotten conflict in East Sudan, emphasising there is a need for a comprehensive peace for all the people of Sudan, including the East. Mr Dirar adds, We need a safe corridor for food and medicine to be transferred to the 160,000 people in the [rebel-held] liberated area. At present, 80% of NGOs budgets is spent on transporting food from Eritrea.

Sudanese Ambassador Hasan Abdin confirms that the negotiations between the government and the Beja Congress rebel group will begin in Nairobi on August 4th.

Ambassador Abdin acknowledges It is important to draw a new economic/political and cultural map, the roots of which are already present in the Peace Agreement and the Interim Constitution. The ambassador says The problem in Darfur has been of a political, and not of a racial or religious nature. Therefore it can only be resolved through dialogue. No one should or can justify the present and past happenings as liberation or as suppression of an unlawful rebellion.

All parties agree the international media has been wrong to caricature Sudans conflicts as Muslim versus Christian or Arab versus Africa. Sudans Ambassador Hasan Abdin says Most of us are Arab and African at the same time. But the former governor of Darfur, Ahmed Dureij of the Umma Party states The problem is that we have not created a nation-state to which everyone can feel that they belong.

Participants also emphasise the need for reconciliation. Mr Dureij cites South Africas famous Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a model for Darfur. Mrs Khadiga Hussein of the NGO Sudanese Mothers For Peace emphasises that The mothers of Sudan are fed up with all this bloodshed. We have to forget the past not forgetting our rights, but moving on or the next generation will never forgive us.

WAYS FORWARD

The two organising NGOs, the Next Century Foundation and Sudanese Mothers For Peace, offer recommendations on ways forward for a stable, democratic peace in Sudan. Their Democracy Report is based on a series of plenary meetings with representatives from various Sudanese factions as well as Sudanese and international NGOs. Key recommendations include:

Under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, national elections are deferred for an interim period of at least three years. However, local elections can and should be held earlier.

After the interim period, there is a need for greater power-sharing between all six provinces of Sudan. Many Sudanese feel marginalised. Indeed, marginalisation is one of the key grievances fuelling conflict in Darfur and Eastern Sudan, which needs to be addressed for a sustainable long-term peace.

We recommend a rotating presidency, whereby each province provides the national president in turn. The president should be supported by a Presidium Council of six deputies, one from each province. If this model is adopted, each president would only be able to serve one term.

Because of the pressing problems of conflict and hunger, little attention has so far been paid to the need for democracy in Sudan. Increasing popular participation in government is essential so that peaceful avenues of political expression can provide an alternative to violence. As Al-Harith Idriss of Sudanese Mothers for Peace says, It is time to move from the bullet to the ballot.

For a copy of the Democracy Report, a transcript of the July 21st discussion or any further information please contact [email protected] or phone:
For Sudanese Mothers for Peace: Mrs Khadija Hussein on 07939 026632 or Ms Eman Hamza on 07810 340503
For the Next Century Foundation: Mr William Morris on 07810 648370 or Ms Jane Kinninmont on 07967 325993

Editors note: Photographs of participants at the conference are available. Contact Mrs Frederique Cifuentes on 0207 603 7153 or [email protected]
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Key quotes from the London Conference on Prospects for Comprehensive Peace in Sudan,
organised by the Sudan Peace Committee:
The Next Century Foundation and Sudanese Mothers for Peace
at the Royal United Services Institute


 Sudans Ambassador Hasan Abdin states
It is important to draw a new economic, political and cultural map, the roots of which are already present in the Peace Agreement and the Interim Constitution.
Especially since the 2004 ceasefire agreement, the problem in Darfur has been of a political, and not of a racial/religious nature; therefore it can only be resolved through dialogue. No one should or can justify the present and past happenings as liberation or suppression of an unlawful rebellion.
Society is today damaged and disrupted but not beyond repair. We are not here for recrimination or shaming and blaming. We are ready for a new stage.
Two days ago in the Abuja Declaration of Principles a new will was expressed for peacemaking and reconciliation; the document also acts as a road map for a final and sustainable peace to complement the CPA.

 SLM representative Adam Latif challenges the international community:
Darfurs displaced persons must be allowed to go back today, not tomorrow.
The African Union, the UN and the international community are responsible for creating a suitable environment for displaced persons to return if the government fails to do so.

 JEM representative Dr Tahir El Faki emphasises
We need humanitarian corridors for aid agencies to gain access to Darfur.
A political arrangement should be sought at national rather than regional level.
The way to achieve power-sharing is a rotating presidency representing all six regions in Sudan, in such a way that no region can be marginalised or deprived of its fair share.

 The representative of Eastern Sudans Beja Congress, Suleiman Dirar, says
We need help in lifting the siege from liberated areas where there are 160,000 people.
We need food and medicine to be transferred from Sudan as 80% of NGOs budgets is currently being spent on transport from Eritrea.

 Former Governor of Darfur, Ahmed Dureij (Umma Party)
Darfur is the greatest issue facing Sudan at the moment, with two million people displaced.
The government and its forces must be coerced into letting these people go home; they can only begin to negotiate once they are safely back home.

 Al-Harith Idriss of Sudanese Mothers for Peace says
'We need to override the bilateral approach of problem solving and adopt a more holistic approach. We advocate the non-exclusivity of the peacemaking process, within which the role of women is of critical importance.'
'All parties have to now make a genuine commitment to democracy as a direct response to grass-root demand, and Sudanese political parties should be encouraged to reform and genuinely promote democratic transformation.'
'The fair sharing of wealth and resources is vital to help solve grievances in the conflict- ridden regions.'

 Ms Eman Hamza of Sudanese Mothers for Peace says
'There are 70 NGOs working in Darfur with 11,000 workers - and there is still a 57% gap in food delivery. The West has still not solved the problem of poverty and starvation in Sudan.'
Failed asylum seekers and other migrants should be given the chance to return voluntarily with the skills they have learnt and help their country. The host government should give them three years expenses, cash down, with which they can return to Sudan.

 Mr Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for International Development says, striking a cautious note
'There is a temptation by all parties to forum shop in an effort, if things are not going to their liking in one place, to find an alternative. The Abuja talks are making progress; it is vital that all parties see that there is no alternative for reaching a final agreement.'

Press are welcome to use any or all of these quotes. For a full transcript of the on-the-record discussion, and/or a background briefing on the confidential daytime conference, please contact [email protected] or phone For Sudanese Mothers for Peace: Mrs Khadija Hussein on 07939 026632 or Ms Eman Hamza on 07810 340503
For the Next Century Foundation: Mr William Morris on 07810 648370 or Ms Jane Kinninmont on 07967 325993

Editors note: Photographs of participants at the conference are available. Contact Mrs Frederique Cifuentes on 0207 603 7153 or [email protected]

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