Sudan: peace deal imminent with Eastern Front?

From Agence-France Press, Oct. 10:

Sudan government, eastern rebels eye peace deal in coming days
KHARTOUM β€” The Sudanese government and eastern rebels are poised to sign a final peace deal ending years of fighting in the coming days, a senior Sudanese official said.

Khartoum and the Eastern Front reached agreement on power-sharing late Monday in the Eritrean capital Asmara, clearing the way for a comprehensive deal, top government negotiator Mustafa Osman Ismail said.

“The road is now clear for signing the final agreement early next week,” the state news agency SUNA quoted him as saying.

A deal would be the third peace agreement signed by Khartoum with rebel groups in various parts of the country — the largest in Africa — in less than two years.

An agreement between Khartoum and the main rebel faction in the war-torn western region of Darfur was signed in May this year but has failed to take hold.

A landmark peace deal was also signed between Khartoum and southern rebels in January 2005, bringing an end to more than two decades of deadly civil fighting.

The former rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement is now in a national unity government with President Omar al-Beshir’s National Congress but relations have often been strained.

The latest round of negotiations between Khartoum and a coalition of eastern rebel factions known as the Eastern Front resumed after a ceasefire agreement was reached on June 19.

The two sides had already concluded agreements on security and wealth-sharing.

Officials said the signing of a power-sharing protocol meant that only a few smaller outstanding issues and the details of the agreement’s implementation were to be discussed.

According to SUNA, the document agreed upon Monday was initialled by the speaker of Kassala state legislative council Ahmed Hamid for Khartoum, and Eastern Front chief Mussa Mohammed Ahmed for the rebel side.

The details of the latest agreement were not immediately available.

Eastern Front secretary general Mabruk Mubarak Salim said in an interview with the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat published Tuesday that a special development fund had been set up for Sudan’s impoverished eastern provinces.

“A fund dedicated to the East’s ‘deadly trio’ — namely education, health and water — has been set up. It will provide 600 million dollars over five years in a bid to solve these problems,” he said.

The Eastern Front was created last year by the region’s largest ethnic group, the Beja, and the Rashidiya Arabs, and has similar aims to its better-known counterparts in Darfur: greater autonomy and control of resources.

Its members have waged a low-level insurgency, and Sudan says the push to defuse the eastern crisis is part of efforts to pacify the whole country by building on peace pacts reached recently with other rebels.

Mustafa Osman Ismail, also a senior presidential adviser, said Beshir and Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa would attend the signing ceremony of the final peace deal.

A definitive date and venue have yet to be announced but observers said the ceremony would likely be signed in Asmara to give credit to Eritrea for brokering the peace agreement.

See our last post on Sudan, and on the Eastern Front. See also in this month’s WW4 REPORT: “Save Darfur: Zionist Conspiracy?” and “From Darfur to Mauritania.”

  1. Nigerian President: UN should take over
    Genocide ‘developing’ in Darfur
    10/10/2006 13:41 – News (SA)

    Addis Ababa – Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo on Tuesday urged Sudan to accept a United Nations role in its troubled western Darfur region, where he said “genocide” was developingand African peacekeepers were overwhelmed.

    In some of the strongest comments made by an African leader to date about the situation in Darfur, Obasanjo said the African Union mission must be handed over to the UN, but retained its African character.

    He said: “It is not in the interest of Sudan, it is not in the interest of Africa or the interest of the world to stand by and see genocide develop in Darfur.”

    The United States and some relief agencies had characterised the Darfur situation as “genocide” in the past, but Obasanjo was believed to be the first African leader to use the word.

    At least 200 000 people had died from fighting, famine and disease, and more than two million had fled their homes in Darfur since fighting began between local rebels and pro-government militia in February 2003.

    The cash-strapped African Union had a force, known as AMIS, on the ground in the region, but it was hampered by a limited mandate, shortage of troops and transportation.

    Sudan had refused repeated calls to transfer the mission to the UN despite a security council resolutions authorising a force and Obasanjo said Khartoum must drop its opposition to alleviate suffering there.

    He said: “I would like to commend the efforts of our partners for their unrelenting efforts to support the AMIS in Sudan until the transition to the UN mission with the support of Sudan and retaining its African character.”

  2. Regional context
    Predictable that the genocide charge is coming from Nigeria, one of the African governments closest to the US (although that does not, of course, mean that it isn’t true). The peace deal with the nearly-forgotten Eastern Front (also known as the Beja Congress) also places more pressure on Khatoum not to grant any meaningful autonomy to Darfur. We noted when southern rebel leader Paul Garang died last year that the autonomy demands of the eastern Beja region were still outstanding, and that this constituted Sudan’s forgotten war. Darfur, on the other hand, has become a cause celebre for the West–and a geo-strategic football in the Great Game for control of Africa and its increasingly critical oil resources. The AFP report refers to the Eastern Front peace deal as Sudan’s third, but as we have also noted, the Darfur “peace deal” is a pretty bogus one. It essentially constitutes co-opting some Darfur rebel groups into proxies to fight against the others which have refused to take the bait. It has not brought peace, but in fact escalated the genocide and in effect swelled the ranks of the Janjaweed.