SUDAN: Government and Darfur rebels sign preliminary truce

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The Sudanese government and the most potent rebel group in Darfur signed a preliminary truce Tuesday, raising hopes that national elections in April may be held without widespread bloodshed.

The agreement between the government and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) was signed in Doha, Qatar, following a weekend of tense negotiations in Chad. Representatives from the U.S., Europe, Asia and Africa were on hand for the signing.

Upon arriving in Doha, Sudanese President Omar Bashir said, “This agreement is the first step toward lasting peace in Darfur. No bullet will be fired in the region of Darfur.”

The agreement is expected to stop military raids and impose a ceasefire in the three Darfur states. But solidifying a lasting peace in the war-torn region is jeopardized by internal squabbles and regional politics. A breakaway faction of the JEM refused to acknowledge the agreement, accusing the JEM of reportedly making a secret deal with Bashir over the awarding of government posts.


The government dismissed the accusations, and some analysts believe the breakaway group is not significant enough to squelch the deal. But there are other problems. Darfur’s second-biggest rebel group – the Sudan Liberation Movement, led by Abdul Wahid – has stepped away from talks until the international community joins negotiations. The SLM has tremendous support among Darfur’s displaced population.

“I fully support the efforts by both sides to bring peace to Darfur,’ said Adam Hassan, a teacher. ‘We suffered a lot. ... So, we urge them to sign the final agreement.”

Death rates in Darfur have decreased in recent months, and the situation has improved for hundreds of thousands in displacement camps. More than 300,000 people died between 2003 and 2008, when tribes in Darfur rose against the the northern-led government. [For the record: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said 3 million people had died between 2003 and 2008.]

But people still worry about an upsurge in violence during elections. “I think there will be no peace in Darfur unless all movements are involved in the peace process. I don’t expect peace in our region soon,” said Mohammed Asaad, a university student.

-- Alsanosi Ahmed in Khartoum, Sudan