/ 9 March 2008

Senegal seeks pressure for Chad-Sudan peace

Senegal wants the international community to guarantee a peace accord between Chad and Sudan to end years of conflict between the two feuding neighbours at the centre of the Darfur crisis, Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade said.

The Senegalese leader will host the signing of a peace pact in Dakar on Wednesday between Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno and Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, which he hopes will succeed where a string of other earlier accords have failed.

The two oil-producing countries, which straddle Arab and black Africa, accuse each other of fomenting conflict on their common frontier, especially in the west Sudanese region of Darfur where political and ethnic warfare has raged since 2003.

More than 200 000 people have been killed and 2,5-million forced from their homes in what aid experts view as the world’s worst ongoing humanitarian emergency, driven by a brutal conflict that has spilled over into neighbouring states.

Wade, who has sought a mediation role in a number of African conflicts, has invited United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the heads of the African Union and the European Union to act as guarantors of the Chad-Sudan peace accord.

”I’ve involved them in the process of implementation … we’ll have the witnessing and presence of these third parties that will guarantee the sincerity of one side and the other,” he said in a weekend interview at his presidential palace in Dakar.

”It’s in this way that I believe that this accord will be definitive,” Wade said. The Chad-Sudan peace deal is due to be signed a day before a summit in Dakar this week of the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

Déby and Bashir, who trade accusations of supporting rebels hostile to each other, have met often before to try to resolve the differences between them. These tensions have brought them close to all-out war on a number of occasions.

But a string of past non-aggression pacts and peace pledges between them, brokered mostly by Libya but also by Saudi Arabia, have collapsed as fresh violence flares again and again in Darfur and on both sides of their porous border.

Disentangling Darfur

Chad’s Déby, his army backed by military intelligence and logistics support from former colonial ruler France, beat off an assault by eastern Chadian rebels on the capital, Ndjamena, in the first few days of February. He accused Sudan of backing the insurgents, a charge denied by Khartoum.

Wade said the peace deal he had drafted not only included a broad agreement for Chad and Sudan to stop supporting rebels hostile to each other, but also concrete steps to implement it.

He gave no precise details but made clear the implementation would engage the EU, the AU, and the UN, who between them are deploying security and peacekeeping forces in both eastern Chad and in Darfur in a bid to stem the violence there.

Wade said the intention was to ”give to the coming accord a solemn stamp, which will even bring in the [UN] Security Council as it does all the other forces present”.

He acknowledged the deal did not involve at this stage the Chadian rebels who are fighting to topple Déby, nor the rebel groups in Darfur pitted against the Sudanese army and militia.

The Senegalese president said he had been asked by part of Chad’s opposition, including some of the anti-Déby rebels, to try to start up a dialogue between them and Chad’s president over a possible power-sharing deal.

”Chad’s government has not been favourable towards this to begin with, and even up to now it has not given its agreement, but I think we can eventually manage to persuade it to discuss some kind of power sharing,” he said.

Wade said obtaining Chad and Sudan’s commitment to a lasting peace between them was the first step towards disentangling the interlocked regional crisis that covers their common border, Darfur and parts of Central African Republic to the south. — Reuters