Articles and Analysies
Darfur: A Little Less Talk, A Little More Action by Anne Bartlett
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Aug 26, 2007 - 12:24:31 PM

Darfur : A Little Less Talk, A Little More Action



Recent agreements in Arusha , Tanzania , on a common platform for peace negotiations seem - at least on the face of things - to be a helpful move in what has so far been in an intractable crisis in Darfur . Common positions among the rebel groups on power sharing, security, land and other key issues may provide a base on which negotiations can move forward. The importance of these talks is underscored by S alim Ahmed Salim’s current efforts to talk Abdelwahid al-Nur around. But these fragile foundations are likely to be destroyed by the elephant in the room – the Sudanese government. Nimbly side-stepping the international community, it has now tiptoed into Darfur and is hell-bent on trampling its opponents underfoot, ahead of any significant force entering the region.

Devious? Yes. But for those acquainted with the Sudanese government, this duplicity is certainly nothing new. Amnesty’s report this week on government planes painted white to resemble UN aircraft and packed with arms to attack the people of Darfur, is illustrative of the lengths the government will go to pursue its agenda. And then of course, the raid on Kalma camp in the last few days - thinly justified by alleged attacks against the police - is just another example of the type of flimsy rationales used by Khartoum for attacking Darfurian people.

But the bigger question is why we are even debating these issues and why the international community does not see security as a precursor to meaningful progress. Of course, with a country the size of France it is almost impossible to produce absolute security. But IDP camps should not be a place where locals can be terrorized even after they have been chased out of their homeland. They should not be a place where local police can act as a proxy for government forces or Janjawiid; they should not be a place where a siege mentality prevails in order to survive everyday life. In the absence of any semblance of normality and frequent human rights abuses even inside a supposed safe zone, is it really surprising that some of the rebel groups are re-appraising their priorities?    How can we expect leaders to carry a mandate from local people while those same people are looking up the barrel of a gun?

If we needed a reminder of the lengths that the Sudanese government will go to, we need look no further than the CPA. Moving at less than a snail’s pace, the Government of Sudan has steadfastly refused to give the people of the South their due. It has failed to share revenues, reneged on border agreements left and right and contributed to the rapidly deteriorating situation in the province of Abyei . In fact, in all of the key issues that the Southerners need to re-develop, the GoS has reneged. So whose fantasy suggests that the Government of Sudan government will play fair in Darfur ? Certainly not mine, nor the people of Sudan .

We have reached a point where blunt talk is needed. Given the record of the CPA, any agreement on Darfur must take serious note of the previous track-record of the Sudanese government and should have two components: agreement and implementation. Agreement can only be forged if representatives to the talks and the people they serve are not subject to the vagaries of Sudanese government abuse – even in the places where they are supposed to be safe. Peace can only be carried over the long term if reality bears some resemblance to what has been promised. Consequently, it is no good for the international community to reach an agreement at any cost in Darfur and then wash its hands of the situation, feeling that its job is done. Darfur needs peace, but 90% of any peace deal is implementation not rhetoric.

Peace is never a one-sided affair. While getting the “rebel house” in order is a clear priority, it is difficult to see how this can occur while the Government of Sudan is breaking every rule in the book with apparent impunity. Failure to respond satisfactorily to the ICC, flagrant abuse of every agreement ever made with the international community and a history of poor implementation is no place to start. History has shown that Khartoum only responds to toughness, not talk. So let’s start as we mean to go on: a little less talk; a little more action.


Anne Bartlett is a Director of the Darfur Centre for Human Rights and Development, based in London. She can be reached at [email protected]



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