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Darfur Rebel Factions in Deal

11/8/2005 6:51pm

The Nation (Nairobi)

By Lucas Barasa

Factional leaders in Sudanese Liberation Movement/Army, the biggest rebel group in war-torn Darfur, have pledged to end their differences and work for peace in the region.

US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick announced after a meeting with the rebels at Nairobi's Safari Park Hotel yesterday that "they are willing to work together."

Mr Zoellick who led a team from the European, United Nations, Britain and Canada in the talks urged the rebels to unite and return to an African Union-sponsored peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria.

The rebels should also respect ceasefire and protect humanitarian workers for peace and "prospects" of development in Sudan, Mr Zoellick said.

Mr Zoellick who is on a six-day visit to Kenya and Sudan, said the Sudan Government of the Congress Party and Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement/Army should also join the Abuja negotiations for peace and prospects of development in Darfur.

The meeting followed a split in the Sudanese Liberation Movement/Army, interfering with efforts to find peace in Darfur.

SLM/A chairman Minni Minnawi was replaced last week by Mr Abdolwalid Ahmed, sparking the split.

The two were among leaders who attended yesterday's talks aimed at unifying the group and agreeing on its representative at the talks.

Mr Zoellick talked of his difficulties to bring the SLM/A factions together during yesterday's talks and said the leaders' seriousness in uniting and working for peace in Darfur will be known during the Abuja talks.

He said the SLM/A enjoyed support of the international community, adding that they would come up with a common negotiating position for speedy conclusion of peace process.

"They should come together and also determine who will lead delegation to Abuja. Darfur problem cannot be solved by more violence. We need to conclude CPA framework," he said.

Mr Zoellick said he will be in Khartoum today and hold talks with President Omar el-Bashir and Cabinet ministers on the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement agreed with the SPLM/A in Kenya in January.

He will then fly to Darfur to "see the situation on the ground and talk to AU forces " before heading to Juba in Southern Sudan where he will hold talks with Sudanese First Vice-President Salva Kiir.

He hailed the AU efforts to bring peace in Darfur and the deployment of security missions to the area where at least two million people have been displaced since the war started and thousands of others killed.

The Janjaweed, a militia group said to be enjoying government support has been fighting with black African forces seeking greater autonomy.

Mr Zoellick said no sanctions had been put on Sudan when Mr Kiir recently visited the US and that the country will help the leader to form a strong and unified Southern Sudan.

His government, he said, was already engaged in education, health and reconstruction of Southern Sudan forces.

He said Kenya, Norway and the US will be members of a commission on assessment and evaluation of the implementation of the CPA reached between the SPLM/A and the Khartoum government.

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