Sudan and Chad agreed on Tuesday to end their proxy wars and engage in direct talks and joint development projects to rebuild their war-affected border areas.
Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno made a surprise visit to Khartoum for talks with President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Monday after relations between the African oil producers had hit rock bottom, with each capital supporting rebels fighting the other’s governments.
“I came with an open heart and hands outstretched to turn a new page in Sudanese-Chadian relations,” Déby told a gathering of Chadian and Sudanese nationals in Khartoum.
He called on the armed Chadian opposition groups, who have camps in Sudan’s Darfur region, to take part in Chad’s elections and win power through the ballot box, not with bullets.
“I will give you security guarantees so you can return to your country and … rejoin civil society,” Déby said of the Chadian “mercenaries”, who in 2008 besieged the presidential palace in Ndjamena.
He invited al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in the restive Darfur region bordering Chad, to visit Ndjamena in the coming days.
“This visit has put a definitive end to all the problems between Sudan and Chad,” al-Bashir told journalists after the talks. He said Sudanese and Chadian authorities and the presidents themselves would now be in regular direct contact.
Al-Bashir’s adviser, Ghazi Salaheddin, told reporters the two were working to get a joint border patrol force on the ground and would undertake joint development projects, including a road between Abeche in Chad and el-Geneina in Darfur, where the force’s head quarters would be.
He said a protocol signed by both sides stated that neither country would host rebel forces from the other side and that those insurgents would be encouraged to join electoral or political processes.
Both presidents said they supported the Darfur peace process taking place in Qatar, and chief mediator Djibril Bassole in Khartoum welcomed the visit.
“This visit will help the Doha talks definitely,” he told Reuters. “Now that all the belligerents are in Doha we’ll keep them there until we reach something.”
“I hope we will reach something by the end of April. At least if we reach some kind of framework agreement before the election that could help the entire peace process.”
Al-Bashir is standing in Sudan’s first democratic elections in 24 years, which are due in April.
The United Nations estimates 300 000 died in Darfur’s humanitarian crisis, which began after mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003. — Reuters