16 March 2013

Sudan: Darfur's Al - Sissi Says He Is Ready to Abandon Post in Favor of Rebels

Khartoum — The chairman of Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) Dr. Tijani Al-Sissi said he is ready to give up his post in favor of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) or Sudan Liberation Movement of Abdel-Wahid al-Nur (SLM-AW), provided that they embrace all factions without exclusion.

Chairman of Darfur Regional Authority (DRA); Head of the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), Tijani Sissi (AP)

Al-Sissi, who was speaking at Al-Ahram Center for Strategic Studies in Cairo Thursday, said that the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) is being kept open for those who want to join it.

The DRA chief was on a visit to Cairo accompanied by the Sudanese Minister of Investments Mustafa Osman Ismail where they met Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi to invite his country to take part in the Darfur donors conference taking place next month in Qatar.

He set the four priorities of the regional authority as being voluntary return of more than 1.5 million displaced, including one million displaced people in the camps; implementing the reconstruction and development programs; repairing the social fabric which has been ruptured by the war; sustaining security in Darfur.

The Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) was finalized at the All Darfur Stakeholders Conference in May 2011 in Doha. In mid-July the Government of Sudan and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) signed a protocol agreement committing themselves to the Document.

The Sudan Liberation Movement of Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM), (SLM-AW), and JEM refused to sign the accord and remain at war with Khartoum.

Al-Sissi said he is optimistic about the cooperation deal which has been signed between Khartoum and Juba earlier this week and expressed hope about its positive impact on the situation in Darfur explaining that South Sudan had constantly sought to fuel the crisis in Sudan's western region order to use it as a negotiating card.

He noted that the economic crisis in Sudan led to a delay in fulfilling government's commitment to provide funding estimated at $2 billion dollars to the regional authority , which in turn led to delays in fulfilling DRA's mandate.

The LJM chief however said that funding has started to flow and disclosed that Qatar has pledged $560 million to build the villages for returnees.

Sudan's Minister of Investment who was speaking at the same forum, said that al-Sissi was governor of Greater Darfur when he was only 31 years old and so he understands well the region's needs in terms of development, stability and political reconciliation.

Ismail pointed out that revolutions of the Arab Spring have positively impacted Darfur by eliminating external interventions, particularly Libyan intervention, adding that Sudan enjoys good relations with six of its seven neighboring countries, mentioning that the latest cooperation agreement with South Sudan will have a positive impact on Darfur crisis as well.

War broke out in the western region of Darfur over a decade ago and has raged ever since despite two peace accords and the presence of the world's largest peacekeeping mission.

Sudan's President Omer Hassan al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide and war crimes in Darfur. Khartoum dismisses the court as an agent of Western neo-imperialism.

In 2008, the United Nations said some 300,000 people may have died in Darfur's war, a figure some activists say is too low. The government has put the death toll around 10,000.

While violence is down from its peak in 2003 and 2004, new fighting has forced more than 130,000 people to flee their homes since the start of the year, according to the United Nations.

In December, the outgoing U.S. special adviser for Darfur said Sudan had implemented little of the Doha deal, which was hindered by a lack of funding, the failure to disarm militias and attacks on peacekeepers.

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