Darfur peace talks start badly

Tentative moves towards peace are reported from Darfur, where the first group of some 200 internally displaced people left Kalma camp near Nyala, the provincial capital of South Darfur, on 20 trucks provided by the Sudanese government. They are part of the total 30,000 displaced people (or 6,000 families) the government plans to return to their areas of origin in West Darfur. With a population of 110,000, Kalma camp is one of the world’s biggest camps for displaced people. Its inhabitants had fled attacks on their villages in 2003 and 2004 and walked for days before reaching what they felt was a safer place in South Darfur. The camp was visited by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan two weeks ago. (UNHCR, June 10) Sudan also announced that it has established its own special court to try Darfur war crimes suspects. (Xinhua, June 11) But African Union peacekeepers reported observing a new clash between government forces and the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) near El-Fasher–claims the Sudanese government denied. (PolitInfo, June 11)

These developments come just as peace talks between Sudan and the Darfur rebels (both the JEM and the larger Sudan Liberation Army, or SLA), are about to begin Abuja, Nigeria. But negotiators from Khartoum refused to begin the first round in protest of the participation of Eritrea in the talks, accusing Eritrea of having sponsored the rebels. Eritrea denies the charge. (Reuters, June 11) Meanwhile, John Garang, head of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLA), the rebel group in southern Sudan which has virtual autonomy in the region following a 2004 peace deal with Khartoum, announced the SPLA would send 12,000 troops to Darfur to help police the war-torn province. (VOA, June 10) This could only heighten Khartoum’s fears about maintaining control over the region, and the de facto dismemberment of Sudan–strengthening the hard-liners in the regime.

See our last post on Darfur.