Darfur conflict threatens Sudan peace

A growing conflict in western Sudan could undermine a peace deal to end two decades of civil war in Sudan according to a report issued by the International Crisis Group (ICG) published on Wednesday.

    The Gerset refugee camp houses thousands of Sudan's refugees

    Peace talks between the government and southern-based rebels have overshadowed fighting in the poor western Darfur region, which erupted in February with two main rebel groups accusing the Khartoum government of sidelining the area.
       
    Reports of fighting in the area have recently intensified, but independent verification is difficult to obtain from the remote region. ICG said the Darfur conflict had killed about 3,000 civilians and displaced more than 600,000 others.

    Think-tank

    The ICG think-tank said tackling the conflict in Darfur should be coordinated with high-level peace talks in Kenya. Those talks are expected to reach a deal by the end of the year to end a civil war in the south that has killed about two million people. John Prendergast, an ICG special adviser, said the government had armed Arab fighters in the western region even while trying to resolve the war in the south. 

    "The end of one tragic civil war in Sudan should not be allowed to be a catalyst for a new one"

    John Prendergast, International Crisis Group

    "The government of Sudan is being feted by the international community for its transition to peace-maker through the... process (in Kenya), while it continues to carry out a bloody campaign by proxy against the people of Darfur," he said. "The end of one tragic civil war in Sudan should not be allowed to be a catalyst for a new one." 
       
    Neutrality

    Khartoum and one of the main western rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), signed a ceasefire in September and were due to restart talks in Chad on Wednesday. But the peace talks were delayed after government complaints of truce violations.

      
    The SLA has called for the Kenya talks over the southern war to include a comprehensive deal for the whole country.

    Chadian President Idriss Deby arrived in Sudan on Wednesday to consult President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to find a "final solution" to the Darfur conflict, a Sudanese official said.

    The ICG also urged the United Nations to send a high-level international observer to the Chad talks to promote greater neutrality in the process

    Refugees 

    Many of the estimated three to four million people displaced by the war are expected to need help returning to their homes and reviving their communities, although the UN statement did not specifically refer to their case.

    The Khartoum government and the southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army have made dramatic progress toward ending a 20-year civil war during negotiations over the past two years in Kenya. Washington expects the warring sides to clinch a final peace deal by the end of this month.

    SOURCE: AFP


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