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Interview with the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army Darfur. Mr. Esam El din El Haj, Prominent Leader and Spokesman of the Movement from Abuja Nigeria. Conducted February 7th, 2006 PM by Subsahara Centre (SSC) Ottawa

2/14/2006 7:18pm

Interview with the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army Darfur. Mr. Esam El din El Haj, Prominent Leader and Spokesman of the Movement from Abuja Nigeria. Conducted February 7th, 2006 PM by Subsahara Centre (SSC) Ottawa

1- Q by SSC: On the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between SLM and JEM, what do you hope to achieve by this MOU and do you see real commonalities with JEM to yield fruitful future cooperation?
A by SLM: This MOU will fortify the position of both movements and facilitate the negotiations with The Government of Sudan (GOS). It may, later, go further than unifying the current political positions and the negotiating vision. It would, surely, reflect positively in our internal front in Darfur by reducing sensitivities and hence friction among the combatants. It will be a catalyst enabling us to maximise our efforts to confront the bandits, Janjaweed (militias led by Musa Hilal from Arabs), and looters supported by GOS. It will, later, facilitate the implementation of the Darfur Comprehensive Peace Agreement (DCPA) reached with the GOS (if any). Some of the commonalities with JEM are: Both the target and means, confrontation of Darfur marginalisation, and confrontation of the death and destruction brought by Janjaweed militias and GOS troops.

2- Q by SSC: What do you have in common with The National Movement for Reform and Development (NMRD) and how do you rate their real political and military weight on the ground?
A by SLM: The NMRD has raised the same slogans of the SLM and JEM. We are allying with them and may even unite in the future if they maintain the common grounds we share. Paramount in our common grounds is the SLM unwavering constant of separation of religion and state. Before rating their political and military weight on the ground, let us think and find out how working together with them will reflect positively on our nation of Darfur.

3- Q by SSC: You have achieved partial success by contributing to bar Beshir from the Chairmanship of AU. What significance do you give to that and how do you rate the Summit meeting in relation to your issues as SLM?
A by SLM: Our relentless rejection for the Chairmanship of AU by Bashir was based mainly on his abominable record for the last three years in human rights abuses in Darfur. Those include genocide, women rape, children abduction, and his failure to deal with the internal crisis of the country in general and in Darfur in particular. He and his regime are not morally qualified to lead the AU when one of its most pressing duties is to solve the conflicts and troubles in Africa. Most of GOS members are wanted by the International Court of Justice (ICC). GOS are still supporting and arming the Janjaweed militias to carry out mass murders in Darfur. The slap that Beshir got in the Summit is an African Presidential condemnation. We note with even more pride the African and international Civil Society (CS) condemnation.
Regarding the Summit meeting in relation to our issues as SLM, we do not think that the priorities in Africa are culture and education. These two issues that were mainly discussed, have very strong linkage to governance. Africa needs to address issues of democracy and human rights. Most of the African countries do have crisis similar to those of Darfur. The root and underlying causes for these crises are political and social injustice, inequality, and the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of minorities or elites. Such crises can only be resolved or avoided by democracy and good governance that guarantee the equal rights, equitable justice, transparency and accountability. Then, we can address culture and education on a platform of human and virtue concepts. Concepts and virtue of the People and not those ones dictated by governments. The Summit also discussed trivial issues such as Hussein Habre, the ex-Chadian president who committed human rights abuses in his country. The AU will go on record as a regional organisation that held its Summit meeting in a country that suffers multiple crises, including the worst humanitarian crisis of the century. The leaders of this organisation did not have the courage to put it in their agenda. Why?

4- Q by SSC: The Abuja talks are in existence as there is no ready alternative. It is alive by default. Salem is weak and the AU is inexperienced to augment his weakness. The process is technically flawed and General Olusegun Obasanjo is frequently interfering or being asked to interfere in the process. In spite of the International Communitys lip-service to the AU they do not trust they could deliver. True or false? And what are your comments.
A by SLM: It is true. More importantly, if the AU continues to manage the file of Darfur in the same manner it is managing the Abuja talks, (in addition to their inadequate efforts on the ground limited by their capacity), one of two scenarios may happen. 1) The situation in Darfur will worsen with drastic consequences, or 2) the UN will take care of the file.

5- Q by SSC: International Community and NGO interveners are all talking about Applying pressure on one party or the other. SLM and the GOS are also talking about this or that country or organizations are to apply pressure. Are you happy with that? Do you think that an agreement reached, even partially, through pressure could be sustainable?
A by SLM: The history of GOS tells us that this government responds only when there is massive pressure brought to bear on it. The SLM/JEM are already under pressure: the worst pressure is being threaded by death at any time. A Darfurian leader does not know how it comes or when it comes. Even worse is the pressure resulting from the suffering of our people in refugees and IDPs camps. A quick look to our suggestions of solving the crisis in Abuja talks indicates clearly who should be pressured.
Any prospective agreement that does not address the root causes of the crisis shall not be durable or sustainable. It could be a recipe for the reproduction of the crisis in Darfur or elsewhere in Sudan. Analyse the history of the North-South conflict and subsequent conflicts: the common factor is the acceptance of others in Sudan. It is how to co-exist in a multi-ethnic and cultural country. This is the hidden side of conflicts in Sudan. It is time we all refuse the hegemony of one religion or culture or ethnic group. Any agreement on Darfur should deal with these facts nakedly.

6- Q by SSC: Where do you see the 7th session taking you in Abuja? Where do the grievous differences lie: Power-sharing? Wealth-sharing or security arrangements? And detail please.
A by SLM: So far, to no where. We hoped this session was to be the last, but that, still, remains only hope. The way being followed by the GOS delegation, the weakness of the AU
Mediator and his/their taking positions are not conducive to reach an agreement. If the GOS were serious and mediators were to be professional and technically competent, the talks could be concluded in two or three weeks.

In the power sharing file, we have asked for the following:
- Darfur should be one region with its known boarders in 1956, in stead of three states.
- The region of Darfur should be awarded the second level of governance in Sudan (levels of governance are: federal, South of Sudan, States, Districts, Localities)
- Representation of the Darfurians during the interim period in the presidency institution at the level of vice president.
- The governor of the capital Khartoum during the interim period is to be from darfur
The government rejected all the requests without any reasonable explanation. We explained our position and rationale in 27 points. GOS came up with only two points justifying its rejection.

In the wealth sharing file, some examples of the grievous differences lie in the following:
- The concept of the land: According to the GOS laws in Sudan, the land is considered for Allah (God) and the government is responsible of it. In Darfur, since time immemorable, there is land owned by tribes with delimited and demarcated boarders.
- Compensations: we asked for both individual and collective compensations, GOS recognises only collective.
- Banking: we asked for an autonomous branch of the Central Bank of Sudan (BOS), while GOS is talking about a window.
- Borrowing: we asked for guarantees to be provided by GOS or BOS to cover the loans will seek from IFIs for the development projects in Darfur, the GOS rejects that.
- Development: we asked for the creation of Darfur Development Fund (DDF), GOS rejects that.
- Sharing: we asked for 6.5% of the total federal revenue as affirmative action on preferential grounds for a limited period of time. GOS is talking about a fixed amount less that 1/3 of our needs.

Re security arrangements, GOS does not want to include the following in the Agenda:
- disarmament of the Janjaweed
- status of our forces during the interim period
- Status of the foreign forces (Janjaweed from other neighbouring countries came into Sudan during this crisis as well as the foreign opposition) in Darfur.
- Re-absorption and compensation for all Darfurians dismissed from The National Military Service ( over 8000 officers and soldiers )
GOS is concentrating only on DDR of our forces.

7- Q by SSC: Is your movement happy with the knowledge, skills, experience and handling of the peace negotiations? What do you want to see done differently? Who are the REAL international players in Abuja?
A by SLM: In Q-4 above, you stated exactly how the AU looks like. What SLM would like to see, is the mediation firming up becoming professionally and becoming more effective. The international community is represented in the talks, but we have not seen a real player inside the negotiation halls. (Completely different from the IGAD Partners Forum (IPF) of the IGAD Process).

8- Q by SSC: Is it true that time has come to start drafting and document of the CPA at all?
A by SLM: Until now, there are no common grounds with the GOS on all three files. On which grounds can a CPA be constructed?

9- Q by SSC: Have you any plans to request the AU to invoke articles 4-j and 4-k of the Durban signed Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the AU? (These are the parallel of Chapter VII of the UN).
A by SLM: For the time being, no.

10- Q by SSC: There is growing consensus that the UN should and would take over the peacekeeping process in Darfur. Little is being said about the peace negotiations process to reach a Comprehensive Pace Agreement (CPA). What are the SLM views on the UN taking over the peacekeeping process? And would you favour the AU to continue to manage the Abuja Process? Have you ever thought of reverting to the IGAD and the IGAD Partners Forum (IPF) who have far more experience on conflict management than the AU and Nigeria?
A by SLM: Surely the UN has access to better facilities than the AU. There needs to a CPA under which the UN forces would operate to keep the peace. We should not look to the crisis from the security lens aspects only. A political solution must be reached before a Peacekeeping force can be effective; otherwise UN will Somalise (from Somalia) or Balkanise (from Balkans) Darfur. UN peacekeeping forces need the SLM/JEM help in the region. It will be in our interest to see to the implementation of a CPA; if reached.
For the time-being, we are not much concerned about who will take over the peacekeeping process, but about who can better protect our people of Darfur, from the atrocities of GOS and Janjaweed militias. The UN can better do that.
There will be a cut-off point for us favouring the AU to continue to manage the Abuja Peace Process. Our people are suffering.
We contacted General Lazaro K. Sumbeiywo to get engaged, but we learned that he has circumstances that will not enable him to lend a hand now. He promised to rethink as soon as he can. The valid question is: why does not the AU engage an expert of equivalent competence from the IGAD or similar regional or international body to augment the current limited expertise in conflict management?

11- Q by SSC: The new multi-party Initiative of January 15th to have a board band front to fight the NCP seems to be promoted by the SLM. What do you hope to achieve and how do you see that different from the NDA? You can later be accused of gathering massive political support, then agree with the government of National Unity/National Congress (GNU/NCP) and leave the others in the cold as the SPLM/A did with the NDA.
A by SLM: We are trying to stitch up the efforts to have a united political position and vision on National Issues. All we have now is MOUs. It is a project in progress. We will keep on working to realise it. We all have to create different mechanisms to implement it. Nobody is going to be left out or behind, all will be on board. We are different from the NDA because we have military power that forced GOS to come to the negotiations table. The NDA was led by Democratic Union Party (DUP). The current initiative is led by SLM. We are two completely different schools. The NDA was seeking (and got) government chairs. That will not change Sudan. Government chairs had been proposed to us as bribe in secret missions or offers in bilateral deals. We are fighting for principles of real democracy, and we have advanced massive sacrifices for that. We will never bend or submit because of GOS actions and games. Massive murdering, ethnic cleansing, women rape, children abduction, burying people alive have failed to deter us.

12- Q by SSC: Civil Society in Africa was instrumental in dashing Beshirs dreams for the AU Chairmanship. What is the SLM doing to engage Darfurian Civil Society (CS) and give them both social and political space in the Movement? Do you have any CS organizations in the liberated areas and do you have an SLM coordinator for their work? Can we and others talk to him?
A by SLM: The major role of the CS will be in the future Darfur Darfur Dialogue which will be held after signing a DCPA with GOS. The Dialogue will discuss the participation of all the people of Darfur. It will discuss the implementation mechanisms. Currently in the liberated areas there are some primitive organisations of human rights, others are engaged in education processes, and there are organizations for women and children. They need support. Can you help? In our delegation to the talks in Abuja, there are two presidents of CS organizations. The one from Northern Darfur (Bir Mezza area) is a woman, Miss Amira Jafar Mohamed. The other is from South Darfur (Kattal or Dar Asslam area) who is Salihia Salih Ali. The General Conference of SLM held in Haskanita 25.10 05 .11.2005 has solved the different problems of the movement and built its structure. There is now a secretary of Social Affairs, He/she is not named yet. Currently Mr. A/Aziz Osman Sam (a lawyer) is running the desk until a permanent Secretary is appointed. Anybody from Canada can talk to him. Let me know and I will send his direct phone number or deal with e-mails addressed to him.

13- Q by SSC: How do you see the rebellion and insurgency in Chad and along the borders with Darfur affecting your activities, especially if the GNU is supporting the rebels and hence they will fight her war by proxy like the Janjaweed?
A by SLM: Definitely the Chadian rebellion will reflect negatively on Darfur. The Chadian opposition is backed by the GOS and the Janjaweed. They are based in areas controlled by GOS and the majority are in Elginena town. Large numbers of Janjweed in Darfur have relatives in Chad. A second Darfur may erupt in Chad. It could be the third African Genocide after Rwanda and Darfur. We expect the humanitarian situation to worsen and IDPs and refugees will increase.

14- Q by SSC: What does your movement see Canada is realistically capable of doing noting there are diplomatic relations between Canada and Sudan at ambassadorial level? What can Canadian CS tell their government to do and what can they do to help the people of Darfur?
A by SLM: Canada, government and People, can do a lot. They can pressure the GOS to negotiate with us in good faith; to stop the attacks on innocent civilians, and to respect the Resolutions 1556, 1564 for the disarmament of the Janjaweed. They can develop our capacity in conflict resolution and negotiations.
The Canadian CS can encourage their government to pressure Khartoum. Our thanks go to the Canada for what they are doing for our people. We hope Canada will address the physical and psychological rehabilitation and reintegration of youth in the society. We want them to reform the education in the region, construction of the region and especially the liberated areas (there was nothing before to be reconstructed!). We want them to address the traumas of violence and rape. We hope they can do more on humanitarian relief.

15- Q by SLM: If funding for airfare is made available by Canadian CS, will you or any of the SLM leaders be willing to come to Canada for awareness and advocacy of the Darfur cause?
A by SLM: if you had not you asked this question, I would have requested it .It will be a great honour to us to talk to the Canadian CS. We will be thankful for their readiness to share our troubles and to listen to the naked facts about Darfur, the why, and the real root-causes of the crisis. If such an invitation materializes, the first line of the SLA leadership will come including the president Minni Arku Minnawi.

16- Q by SLM: There is very little known about life and conditions in the liberated areas of Darfur. There is very little direct communication between the Canadian media or activists and the leaders of SLM. Is your movement willing to accept an analyst or more to visit the liberated areas and have free access for 10 days to 2 weeks and tell Canadians some true stories of the people in those areas and interview your other colleagues in the leadership of the SLM?
A by SLM: We welcome any body able to visit our librated area, and we will provide him/her any services within our capacity to complete his/her objectives. He/she can speak to any leader, soldier, or citizen there without any restrictions. Let me embrace this opportunity to invite the Canadian Media and CS to visit the liberated area at any time convenient to them.

Arranged and conducted by:

Tag Elkhazin,
Subsahara Centre, Resource Experts on the HOA
1981 Montclair Ave, Gloucester, Ontario, K1W 1H9
Tel: 1-613-834-7817 Fax: 1-613-834-4930
E-mail: [email protected]
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