Official voices support for independence, but move is at odds with peace deal that vows to pursue unity.
|Minnawi has accused the government of “manoeuvring” for the past four years [AFP]|
Minni Minnawi, the only Darfur faction leader to have signed the Darfur Peace Agreement [DPA] with the Sudanese government, has declared the failure of the 2006 deal. The announcement deals another blow to Khartoum, which faces the possibility of the southern portion of the country seceding in an upcoming poll.
On Sunday, Minnawi accused the government of failing to implement the Darfur agreement, saying that he is ready to do battle.
Minnawi, the Sudan Liberation Army [SLA] faction leader, secured several official titles after he signed the peace accord with Khartoum.
But he has abandoned his government-allocated office in Khartoum where he had been serving as “senior assistant” to President Omar al-Bashir.
He has since moved to Juba, the capital of the South Sudan, the autonomous part that is hoping to become an independent country in the upcoming referendum on January 9.
The government declared last week that Minnawi, its one-time partner was now an “enemy,” and closed his Khartoum office.
Southerners “reject the policy of this [Khartoum] government” and will choose secession next month, Minnawi predicted, leaving behind northern Sudan as a “failed state.”
Two people were killed in fighting between Minnawi’s forces and Sudanese troops in Khor Abeche, a southern Darfur village, on Friday and Saturday.
Kemal Saiki, the spokesman for a joint UN and African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, said one person was killed and four were wounded in Friday’s fighting.
He added that homes were burnt and people sought refuge with peacekeepers.
Fighting on Saturday killed one person and wounded eight, he said.
The clashes come as three million people have registered to vote in South Sudan’s independence referendum.
Minnawi said that, “Our relation with the government of Khartoum was the DPA agreement. Now they are cancelling the DPA”.
“They stated that our forces have become a target of the SAF forces [Sudanese army]. That means they are pulling out of the DPA agreement,” the SLA leader said.
The peace agreement is due to expire in April 2011.
“I can say very clearly that whenever they target our forces we will also target their forces,” said Minnawi. “We will defend ourselves.”
Sawarmi Khaled Saad , Sudanese army spokesman, blamed Minnawi’s group for the latest clashes. “Minnawi’s group began the rebellion and they are now a target of the armed forces,” he said.
Minnawi said that he had signed the agreement, hoping that it will change the situation in Darfur “politically, economically and socially, and for security,”
He stressed that Sudan would need a complete overhaul after the referendum and blamed the government for failing to unify Africa’s largest nation.
Minnawi also hinted at the possibility of the reunification of the Sudan Liberation Movement [SLM], saying that,”now we are talking about that.”
He spilt from the SLM after Haskanita conference in November 2005, but has now said that he is willing to start talks with Abdel Wahid al-Nur, the head of a larger SLA faction, who lives in exile in France.
Nur has long refused to take part in the peace process with the Khartoum government, and he has proposed convening the SLA for talks in Paris on the future of Darfur and Sudan.
Scott Gration, the US special envoy to Sudan, discussed the ongoing efforts to end Darfur conflict in Doha with Vice-President, Ali Osman Taha.
According to western sources, Gration is pushing to include Minnawi in the Doha peace process, who has expressed his readiness to rejoin Doha peace process if invited to do so.