Global Policy Forum

Will The Failed Abuja Diplomacy Be Repeated in Libya?


By Dr. Mahmoud A. Suleiman*

Sudan Tribune
September 26, 2007

The International Community (AU team and US) employed coercive diplomacy to compel the Darfur rebel movements, SLA and JEM to sign Peace Agreement (DPA) in Abuja, Nigeria, on May 2006 with a "try-and-see" approach. The result was that the DPA signed only by the Government of Sudan (GOS) and a splinter group from the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) led by Mini Minnawi proved unsustainable. Moreover, the other two rebel groups—Abdul Wahid Mohammed Al-Nur of SLA/M and Khalil Ibrahim of Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) did not sign the DPA. Both non-signatory rebel groups are more popular within the common Darfurians and the rebel commanders on the ground. The DPA was imposed on Darfur without active participation of the Darfurians. The mediators' approach to negotiations in Abuja also served as an incentive for the government of Sudan to disregard the DPA. Lessons need to be learned from the DPA if the upcoming peace negotiations in Libya to be successful.

To ensure ownership of the peace process by the Darfurians, the viewpoints of people in Darfur should be taken on board in the political process towards just and sustainable peace. To this end, involvement of traditional leaders, tribal groups, local civil society organization, youth organisations and women need to be widely consulted prior to and during the negotiations. Moreover, the voices of the people of Darfur in Diaspora should be listened to.

Sudan Tribune article on Saturday 22 September 2007 reported that Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol, calling Friday's ministerial session "successful," stressed the fact that "any party that does not participate in the (Tripoli) talks or obstruct the peace process will be faced with firm punitive measures." This loaded statement embodies three components: Firstly, it reflects the pomposity of Minister Akol who proves himself as a loyal agent of the National Congress Party (NCP) rather than a representative of Sudan Liberation Movement/ Army (SPLM/A). Secondly, the International Community seems to be sending same wrong signals that it continues its preferential treatment of GOS through the ‘softly-softly' approach. Thirdly, the International Community, sadly, has not yet learnt the lessons from the recent past in Abuja when coercive diplomacy was relied heavily on. The International Community used threats to force the concerned parties to accept the DPA which has, since, failed disastrously.

The new UN administration seems to be in an unprecedented push on temper. It needs to become fully aware of the fact that the announcement of the time frame for beginning the Darfur peace negotiations in Libya on October the 27th 2007, has been made with urgent haste and too short notice without due consideration to how prepared the parties (Rebel Movements) are. The He Head of the NCP President General Omar al-Bashir is quoted, in a television interview Friday the 21st of September 2007, to have expressed doubts over the chances of success for the upcoming negotiations between his government and rebel forces in Darfur because of the (many) competing guerrilla factions. He added furthermore "because the factions attending the upcoming talks in Tripoli do not represent the armed groups in Darfur". Despite the hidden agenda behind them, these statements may indicate indirect recognition by the General that Darfur armed movements need extra time to unite and strengthen their position in the field, as well as reviewing negotiation issues such as power-sharing, wealth-sharing, sustainable development; rehabilitation and reconstruction of Darfur, humanitarian assistance and security arrangements prior to commencement of round of negotiations. The problem that faces the International Community most is that the UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions (Chapter VII of the UN Charter) on the Darfur Crisis remain ineffective because they have not been acted upon. Moreover, the UN and the AU, mistakenly, considered the NCP government in Sudan as a partner in peace in Darfur when the facts clearly indicate the vice versa. The International Community, regrettably, allowed the government of Sudan to continue military operations in Darfur with impunity, while genocide enters its fifth year destroying the livelihood of over 2.5 million Darfurians and killing more than 400000 people. The U.S. government has failed to engage in a sustained and coherent manner to address and lead international resolution of this genocide.

Although General Omer al-Bashir earlier this month of September 2007, promised a cease-fire, his fighter bombers raided rebel held territories killing innocent civilians in the town of Haskaneeta, North Darfur, a base for a combined force of JEM and SLM-Unity. The Khartoum regime has bamboozled the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who announced that comprehensive negotiations between the government and rebels in Tripoli will commence on Oct. 27 to settle the long-running conflict.

A Darfur rebel group was quoted as have said that parties are not ready to enter into genuine political talks and requested the delay of Darfur peace talks scheduled to start at the end of the next October in Libya. Furthermore, Sudan Liberation Army faction of Ahmed Abdelshafi urged the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, to reconsider the timing of Darfur peace talks planned to convene in Tripoli. The rebel leader argued that "True confidence-building measures are needed on the ground" before. On the other hand, it is understood that, and as reported in the VOICE OF AMERICA News, a meeting of Darfur rebel in Chad, aimed at finding a common position ahead of October peace talks, has been temporarily suspended. Officials in Chad, which hosted the talks, say five rebel groups from Darfur attended the meeting this past week. The meeting of Darfur rebel groups is expected to resume early next month allowing more groups to be represented.

Based on the aforementioned facts, starting genuine peace negotiations by the end of October 2007 seems far-fetched and too ambitious. It is imperative on the part of UN and AU to be realistic and thoughtful by giving due attention to the well thought-out concerns of the people of Darfur and not try to score political points. Instead, the International Community needs to allow more time and freedom for the Darfur Rebel Movements to forge a common position ahead of peace talks with the Sudanese government. Coercive diplomacy proved utter failure to bring peace or resolve the crisis in Darfur. The most pressing question now is: Do the mediators aim to learn lessons the hard way? I hope not.

About the Author: The author is the Deputy Chairman of the General Congress for Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).

More Information on the UN Security Council
More Information on Sudan
More Analysis and Articles on Peacekeeping
More Information on The Secretary General: Ban Ki-Moon


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.