23 June 2006

Sudan: Concerns Over Implementation of Darfur Peace Deal

Nairobi — The implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) is falling behind schedule and threatening the fragile truce in Sudan's western region, observers have warned.

The most critical weaknesses of the DPA are that not all rebel groups signed the peace deal and its implementation relies to a large extent on the goodwill of the Sudanese government.

The DPA was signed on 5 May by the Sudanese government and the largest of the three main rebel factions, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) led by Minni Minnawi. Abdelwahid Mohamed al-Nur, the leader of another faction of the SLM/A and Khalil Ibrahim, leader of the Justice and Equality Movement refused to sign, claiming it did not fulfill their key demands.

It contains a timetable for the disarmament of the government-supported Arab militia, the Janjawid, a referendum on Darfur's administrative structure, and elections in three years' time. Until then a nominee of the rebel movements will hold the fourth-highest position in the presidency, heading a new regional authority that will control millions of dollars for security, resettlement, reconstruction and development programmes in the region.

However, in its latest report on Darfur, published on Tuesday, the International Crisis Group warned that the DPA was "structurally weak" because of its lack of implementation guarantees, requiring the parties "to disarm themselves".

The government had formally agreed to identify, neutralise and disarm its proxy militias on five previous occasions and had been ordered to disarm them in multiple UN Security Council resolutions since July 2004, the report observed; but the support and arming of militia had continued regardless.

"Without the good faith of the parties, particularly that of the government, and without effective fulfillment by AMIS [the African Union Mission in Sudan, whose troops are monitoring the region's ceasefire] of its verification and patrolling roles, the DPA is destined to fail," the ICG warned.

Lack of Implementation

Despite the merits of the agreement, analysts are concerned that the peace deal will remain a dead letter as little progress has been made on its implementation since it was signed.

"There is nothing, there is no progress on the implementation of the DPA," Hafiz Mohamed, Sudan programme director for the London-based advocacy group Justice Africa, said. "That is a great worry - a lot needs to be done."

A Transitional Darfur Regional Authority was to be launched and a rebel leader was to be nominated as Senior Assistant to the President on 16 May and a complete ceasefire was set to begin on 19 May - but both deadlines passed without action. A 15 June deadline for the setting up of a Darfur Reconstruction and Development Fund and a Preparatory Committee for the Darfur Dialogue and Consultation was missed as well.

"For there to be peace, the deadlines set by the Darfur Peace Agreement must be followed," said Maureen Byrnes, Executive Director of Human Rights First. "It is now more than a month since the agreement was signed and there has been no announcement of any action on any of the key provisions. Despite a signed peace agreement, the people of Darfur still live in a violent limbo, and their confidence in the process continues to fall."

According to the DPA, the Sudanese government was also supposed to present a comprehensive plan for disarming the Janjawid militia on Thursday and the African Union Mission was expected to produce a final map indicating areas of control, buffer zones, demilitarised zones, and redeployment zones - but the plans for these key security arrangements have not been put forward so far.

"In the month since the peace agreement was signed, the people of Darfur have not seen a cessation of violence. Instead, in some parts of Darfur there's actually been a major escalation of the violence," Byrnes noted.

"You can blame the government for it, but Minni Minnawi's group also deserves some of the blame, due to its lack of cohesion - the movement continues to splinter," Mohamed said.

Rebel disunity

The prospects of a successful implementation of the DPA are overshadowed by the refusal of two main rebel groups to sign the agreement and by dissent within Minnawi's faction of the SLM/A. As a result, small but violent clashes between rebel groups are increasingly common across Darfur.

"One of the weakest points of the DPA is that it doesn't bring in the majority of the Darfurians, which makes it difficult to implement," Mohamed said. "Many people in Darfur, in particular of the Fur [the largest ethnic group] oppose the DPA; especially with regard to the security arrangements and the issue of compensation."

Julie Flint, a long-term Darfur analyst, observed that Minnawi's following amongst the Zaghawa, who make up less than 8 percent of the population, had aroused old fears among other ethnic groups. The signing of the peace deal by his SLM/A faction, militarily by far the strongest and most offensively oriented in Darfur, fuelled suspicions about a hidden agenda for the creation of a new Zaghawa homeland, carved out of the lands of other ethnic groups.

Minnawi's movement itself was far from united, observers said, and new levels of dissent within the movement had become apparent. Mohamed observed that there was no coordination between the movement's secretary general, Mustafa Tayrab, and its chairman, Minn Minnawi.

Aware of the large-scale opposition against the DPA within his movement, Minnawi had refused to consult with the SLM/A parliament, the Revolutionary Council of Liberation, since the signing of the peace deal. Subsequently, Minnawi sent an advance delegation to prepare for his coming to the Sudanese capital Khartoum - a move openly criticised by Tayrab.

One observer who requested anonymity, said that while the head of the SLM/A forces, Juma Hagar, and his deputy, Bakheit Abdelkarim - who are opposed to the DPA - remained silent, a number of local commanders challenged their leadership more openly. The holdout rebel groups were profiting from this situation, he said, and were recruiting Minnawi commanders opposed to the peace deal.

"We are aware of the untold pressures exerted on the sole signatory to Abuja [the Nigerian capital where the DPA was signed] who must now deal with the rage of Darfurians, fighters in the field, refugees, displaced, women and youth throughout Sudan and abroad," rebel leaders al-Nur and Ibrahim recently said in a joint statement. "He [Minnawi] is required to reconcile with his limitations and real standing within Darfur and not allow himself to become an instrument for death and destruction."

"It is a serious worry that the other groups didn't sign - it will derail the whole process of implementation," Mohamed warned.

The fragmentation of Al-Nur's SLM/A faction further complicated matters, the ICG said. Leaders belonging to the Birgid, Daju, Berti, and Tunjur groups and Ibrahim Madebo, a descendant of the paramount chief of the large Rizeigat Arab ethnic group in South Darfur, recently broke away, complaining that Al-Nur's refusal to sign was unreasonable given the international guarantees. Their dissent considerably narrowed al-Nur's predominately Fur support-base.

Another concern was whether other powerful constituencies that were left out of the DPA negotiations would abide by the agreement, such as various groups of Arab origin and government-backed militias, including the Janjawid.

"We need to put pressure on the parties who have signed the agreement to honour and implement it in good faith. We should maintain a persistent pressure on the rebels [who] have not signed, and those parties outside the agreement, to join the agreement, and really press them to honour it in good faith," UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, told reporters in Geneva on Thursday. "The peace agreement remains very tenuous and incomplete since two of the rebel movements have still not accepted it."

AU-UN transition

Since not all armed groups have signed the DPA, its success depends to a large degree on the robust monitoring by AMIS troops and their ability to protect civilians against further attacks. AMIS, however, has too few troops with little mobility and firepower and inadequate intelligence capabilities to do it properly, the ICG warned.

"We should also take immediate and urgent steps to strengthen the African Union force that is on the ground so that it can defend its mandate and defend the people in its proximity," Annan said. "There is a pledging conference planned in Brussels next month, and I hope governments will give, and give generously, to make it possible for the African Union troops to carry out their mandate in Darfur."

"But in the medium term, I still think a United Nations peacekeeping force will be needed to help the parties implement the peace agreement and help provide security for the internally displaced," he added.

The ICG warned that the DPA had such an array of possible spoilers that anything less than a large, full-fledged UN Chapter VII mission - which authorises the use of force - to protect civilians and help implement the peace agreement would multiply the risk of failure of both a UN operation in Darfur and the peace process as a whole.

"We have not yet got agreement from the Sudanese authorities - and I think you all heard President [Umar al-] Bashir's statement rejecting a UN force - but let me say that the talks continue and, I hope ultimately, we will be able to convince them to accept a UN force," Annan said.

It was critical that the transition to a UN force in Darfur occurred around the end of September, the ICG added, when the current AMIS mandate would expire. "The longer it will be postponed, the less legitimate the DPA will become to many in Darfur, where there is already little confidence in it and in AMIS."

"The assessment mission that is on the ground will give me its report, hopefully next week, and based on that report, we will finalise our plans," Annan observed. "And unfortunately, we will need to continue our discussions with the Sudanese authorities. It is important that we get their cooperation and support when we deploy the UN troops."

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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