Sudan to announce Darfur ceasefire

Sudan will announce another ceasefire in its four-and-a-half year conflict with rebel groups in Darfur at the weekend, it emerged on Monday.

The announcement will come at the opening of Darfur peace talks, which are to take place in the Libyan city of Sitre, the hometown of the Libyan leader, Moammar Gadaffi.

Abdelmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamed, the Sudanese ambassador to the United Nations, said the move was designed to promote the success of the long-awaited meeting.

“On that day ... we will declare a ceasefire so that we can give the negotiators a chance to get out with an agreement on cessation of hostilities ... in the first round of the talks,” Mohamed said.
He described the move as “a confidence-building measure”.

There have been ceasefire agreements in Darfur before, notably in 2004 and in May last year, but they were openly flouted.

Earlier this month, Jan Eliasson, the UN special envoy to Darfur, called on the Sudanese government and rebel factions to begin the peace talks with a ceasefire agreement. He urged both sides to make concessions during the negotiations.

On Monday, Amnesty International claimed the Sudanese government was obstructing the deployment of a 26 000-strong joint UN and African Union peacekeeping force to Darfur.

The force is due to take over from the overstretched African Union mission in Sudan by the end of December.

“The peacekeeping deployment process continues to move slowly,” Amnesty’s Africa programme director, Erwin van der Borght, said. “This is unconscionable. How many more Darfuris must die before the international community responds with the urgency this crisis demands?”

He urged the Sudanese government to allow the force freedom of movement and to immediately provide it with land to establish bases.

The current conflict started in 2003, when rebels attacked government installations. In response, the Janjaweed militia attacked, burnt and looted villages in Darfur. The Sudanese government is accused of sponsoring the Janjaweed.

Abdel Wahid, the exiled leader of one of the main rebel groups, the Sudanese Liberation Army, said the peace talks should only take place after deployment of the new peacekeeping force. “This is completely the wrong approach and will only prolong the suffering of the people,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

International experts estimate that around 200 000 people have died and 2,5-million have been driven from their homes during the Darfur fighting. - Guardian Unlimited Â

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