8 May 2009

Sudan: Civil Society Cancels Darfur Peace Conference

An ambitious attempt to convene a civil society conference on Darfur with the aim of building what its organizers call "a mandate for peace" has been derailed by the Sudanese government.

The organizers of the conference, which was scheduled to take place next week, announced Fridaythat they had cancelled it because Khartoum had refused to allow Darfurian delegates to travel to Addis Ababa for the meeting.

The conference was organized by a group calling itself "Mandate Darfur," the operations of which are being facilitated by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, the organization founded by the Sudanese mobile phone pioneer of the same name to promote good governance in Africa.

Announcing the conference last month, Mandate Darfur billed it as "the largest gathering of Darfurian civil society representatives ever assembled." The group said up to 300 delegates from across tribal, ethnic, geographic and religiouscommunities would work towards a common mandate for peace talks.

In a statement issued on Friday by the foundation on behalf of Mandate Darfur, it said conference organizers had tried to work with the Sudanese government since the initiative began.

But Sudan's security services had "harassed our delegates, confiscated passports and threatened the conference coordinators in Sudan."

Noting that the conference had the support of the African Union, the Arab League, the United Nations and a range of former African leaders, the group added that "there is no element of this conference that could or should have been perceived as acting against the interests of the Sudanese government."

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