Darfur Mediation: Politics of Illusion

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Upfront

In Darfur, Western Sudan, the hostilities have been decreasing over the years since 2009, but there is no peace in sight. 

The number of rebel factions and armed movements has made it a complex situation, leading to stark ethnic and religious divisions. For years, this rebel movement in Darfur has been bred on local support.

On 29 March 2017, the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation (UNAMID), discussed the Darfur meditation. At this meeting, they noted improvement in the situation and called for a review of the “deployment of the mission in the context of the improved environment in Darfur”.

There has been no comprehensive peace agreement in Darfur until now. The Darfur conflict started in 2003 when two rebel movements took up arms to protest against the economic and political marginalisation in Sudan.

Violence in the Darfur region of Sudan’s far west continues unabated. Some 450,000 persons have been displaced in 2014 and another 100,000 in January 2015. The new Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has worsened violence and displacements.

Over the course of time, two peace agreements have been drafted, namely the Darfur Peace Agreement of 2006 and the Doha Document of Peace in Darfur (DDPD) in 2011. However, neither of them have been signed by all the rebel groups. At this point in time, the government in Sudan still views the DDPD as the framework for any resolution. The rebel groups reject this document because they view it as being too favourable to the government.

Since 2015, there have instances of ceasefires announced for over six months, by the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement. In December 2017, National Liberation and Justice Party (NLJP) led by Tijani al-Sissi called on the African mediation to resume Darfur peace talks.

It seems that there is a lack of a coherent legal framework that can guide this place to any peaceful settlement. In June 2016 the Sudanese government also declared a four-month ceasefire extended for two months in October, another month in December and recently for six months in January 2017.

From the point of view of the government, these political actions were necessary to convince the outgoing Obama administration to lift the 20-year-long US sanctions against Sudan. But it still remains unclear how this 14-year conflict will reach an end through current talks mediated by the African Union and UN. The peacekeeping mission in Darfur is known to be one of the costliest with a budget of more than $1billion.

In Darfur, conflicts at local level still persist between Arab and non Arab militias. These group fight for gold in places such as the Jebel Mara. Many swathes of land have become vacant and around two million people have been displaced.

Darfur’s ethnic tribes, the Fur and Zaghawa, have complained of getting fewer political rights than the dominant Arab tribes who live side by side.

Most problems in Darfur have been made worse by the refugee crisis and desertification from climate change. One can find dead animals in the middle of deserted villages during the day.

There are clashes that can also grow out of personal disagreements that would regularly be addressed by legal mechanisms like courts—which may be ineffective or nonexistent in remote areas. Police, in this situation, does nothing.

In fact, people benefit from each other, unjustly, through a deep sense of tribalism.

The hakkamat, Sudan’s traditional female singers and poets, are war agitators, who instigate their fellow tribesmen to go to battle. This practice of provocation continues till date, despite ongoing appeals from activists to change the custom.

There was a referendum held in April 2016 on the Darfur area’s administrative status. Originally a federal state, Darfur had been divided into three states in 1994 and then into five states.

During the referendum, 97% of voters chose the ‘states option’ over the ‘regional option’. This meant that Darfur would remain divided into five states.

The referendum was strongly criticised by many stakeholders and political observers because of the security context, which did not allow internally displaced persons and refugees to participate in the referendum. The organisation of this poll also raised questions about the government’s commitment to addressing the grievances that led to the Darfur conflict.

Mediation efforts by the Sudanese government and other parties have failed to reverse the collective resignation of Darfuri students from the Bakht al-Rida University in the White Nile state in the past.

In a resolution adopted in 2000, the United Nations Security Council declared that women and children are most affected by armed conflict in Darfur. They stressed the importance of women’s participation in peacebuilding and reconciliation. But in a survey conducted a decade later, the UN concluded there’s been “little success,” and that women made up less than 10 percent of those involved in formal peace negotiations.

In fact, the Crises Group in 2014 gave several recommendations including unfettered humanitarian access, developing concerns for all communities, progressive demilitarisation and leaving mediation to respected neutral Sudanese.

This whole scenario indicated that a number of processes need to be revived, modified and reinitiated, especially in the UN Security Council on Darfur generally.


Popular Posts