Sudan wants SA to mediate on Darfur crisis

Sudan has asked South Africa to mediate on Darfur, Minister of Foreign Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said on Tuesday as attempts to end a conflict that has killed more than 200 000 and forced 2,5-million from their homes appeared to founder.

Dlamini-Zuma said Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir made the request to President Thabo Mbeki at a meeting in Cape Town on Tuesday, a day after a spokesperson for United Nations and African Union mediators pressed Darfur rebels to come to peace talks in Libya.

UN-AU-brokered talks opened late last month in the Libyan coastal town of Sirte without several prominent rebel leaders. Days later, a Sudanese government official said the talks would be postponed until December.

At UN headquarters on Monday, Ahmad Fawzi, spokesperson for the UN-AU mediation team, said the absence of several rebel leaders was disappointing, and pressed them to join the process.

”They are the beneficiaries of this process, and they owe it to their people to come up with a unified position,” Fawzi said.

The boycotting rebels said the UN and AU mediators had invited rebel groups they saw as government stooges. Divisions among more than a dozen Darfur rebel groups have emerged as one of the main obstacles to forging a peace agreement.

Dlamini-Zuma said the South African government will consider the request to mediate, but understands Darfur was a complex challenge.

”The problem is that there are lots of stakeholders, lots of players,” Dlamini-Zuma told the South African Broadcasting Corporation. ”We are only talking to the government, but the players who need to sit around the table are more than the government.”

South Africa played a key role in forging a 2005 peace deal that ended 21 years of civil war between Sudan’s Muslim-dominated north and the Christian, animist south. Mbeki is frequently called in to mediate in crises such as the ongoing political and economic meltdown in Zimbabwe.

Darfur’s ethnic African rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated central government in early 2003, accusing it of discrimination. The regime has been accused of arming local Arab militias known as the Janjaweed who are blamed for widespread atrocities against civilians.

The Sudanese government denies any guilt, but a Cabinet minister and a Janjaweed chief have been charged by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, The Netherlands, with crimes against humanity. — Sapa-AP

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