Darfur truce ahead of Sudan poll

Rebel movement in Sudan agrees temporary peace deal with Khartoum ahead of elections.

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The Justice and Equality Movement has been fighting the Sudanese government for seven years [File: EPA]

“The fact that people have had to be displaced because of aerial bombing, if they get a ceasefire they would be staying in peace at least those staying in the villages.”

Sudan is to hold its first multiparty elections in April for the first time in 24 years. A referendum to decide whether southern Sudan should become independent is to be held in 2011.

Framework pact

Jem, Darfur’s largest opposition group, signed a “framework agreement” with the government on Saturday in Ndjamena, Chad’s capital, setting out the terms for future peace talks.

Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Sudan’s president, said in a speech on state television: “Today we signed an agreement between the government and Jem in Ndjamena and in Ndjamena we heal the war in Darfur.”

In depth

undefined Who are Sudan’s Jem rebels?
undefined Video: Darfur rebels fight to forge new country
undefined Video: Chad camps foster Darfur rebels
undefined Timeline: Darfur crisis

Ahmed Hussein, a Jem spokesman, told the AFP news agency that the group would order its forces to stop military operations following the deal.

“We have just initially signed the framework agreement,” he said.

“We will discuss of many issues – return of the IDPs [internally displaced persons], power and wealth sharing, compensation, detainees.

“We are committed to a peaceful solution for Darfur.”

Ibrahim said there should be a way to have the people of Darfur involved in the political process.

“[This] means that either there should be a special arrangement for Darfur concerning the electiion or the elections be postponed,” he said.

‘Broader deal’

A broader agreement on security arrangements and refugees is expected to be discussed in the coming days in Qatar, which has been mediatating the talks.

The United Nations says that at least 300,000 people have died through violence, disease and displacement during the seven-year conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur region.

But officials in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, dispute the figures, saying that only 10,000 people have died since ethnic minority fighters rose up against the Arab-dominated government and its allies.

Al-Bashir, who faces an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court on allegations of war crimes in Darfur, said death sentences against 100 Jem fighters had been quashed after the agreement’s signing.

“I cancel all the sentences of hanging pronounced against members of the Justice and Equality Movement,” he told an audience of members of women’s associations.

A Sudanese court condemned 105 members of Jem to death after the group launched an assault in May 2008 that reached Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman, just across the Nile from the presidential palace.

Khartoum has agreed a series of ceasefires with the rebels, but some have fallen apart days after their signing and distrust between the warring parties remains deep.

Darfur’s other main rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), is refusing to talk to the government, demanding an end to all violence before negotiations begin.

Source: News Agencies