Monday, November 21, 2005

It's the 21st of November, and this means that the 7th (and "final") round of the Darfur peace talks is supposed to start today (well, media reports can't seem to make up their mind as to whether or not they've been postponed, but last we heard they are back on).

Many people over here continue to be amused by this whole "final" thing. More and more, I'm hearing people joke that we've still got another 18 or 19 years of conflict ahead of us - 'hey, just look at how long it took for South Sudan to get a peace deal with the government.' The most depressing days are the ones when I realise that some of them are not joking.

So what's the problem in this round of peace talks? Well, besides the obvious (the fact that none of the parties has ever made the slightest attempt to actually respect the ceasefire agreements or principled declarations they sign during these meetings), this one's mostly down to the rebels.

For months, the internal split within the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) has been growing deeper and deeper. None of the international community's rushed attempts at pushing the two main sides together seem to have made any progress (well, unless you count their unfailing ability to give a bunch of arrogant men the chance to dramatically storm out of grand meeting rooms and denounce each other).

The fact that all of these men are doing the people they claim to represent an enormous disservice seems to have somehow escaped their notice.

In the camps, community leaders bemoan the lack of a united front. While few have the luxury of receiving detailed reports on what actually happens in the peace talks, almost everyone I speak to in the camps is united on one thing: the rebels should just stop squabbling with each other.

"If you ask me, I don't even understand why JEM (the Justice and Equality Movement, Darfur's other main rebel group) ever split from the SLA. I think they should all just stick together if they want to make a strong point," one of our local volunteers tells me this week. His colleagues nod. They are sick of living in the camp. But unlike their so-called leaders, they have to get along to survive (and well, storming out of a makeshift shelter covered in USAID plastic sheeting just doesn't seem quite as impressive as doing it in a plush Nairobi hotel).

People living in the area just North of Um Kadada (North-Eastern Darfur) must be even more sick of the rebel antics, having just witnessed a bunch of clashes between different SLA factions that all claim to be supporting the rightful leader of the movement.

I search the internet this morning for an indication that the new round of peace talks really did kick off today. So far, there's nothing. Who knows which of the rebels will turn up, or when. I wonder how convincingly Minni Minawi and Abdul Wahed would explain yet another delay to the people who are waiting inside the camps.

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At , Blogger MarkDM said...

Here's a quote from a Reuters story: "A new round of talks in Abuja was to begin Monday, but Africa Union sources in Khartoum said negotiations were delayed for logistical reasons."

It's not much of an explanation, but at least it's something.

At , Blogger james arnold said...

"The talks will resume Sunday or Monday as soon as all the parties have arrived in Abuja," said El Ghassim Wane, the director of the AU’s Conflict Management Center.

The talks had been due to start on November 21 but were postponed for "logistical reasons" amid a leadership rift in the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM).

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