Saturday,21 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1279, (21 - 27 January 2016)
Saturday,21 October, 2017
Issue 1279, (21 - 27 January 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Sudanese talks resume

The Sudanese government is engaging various opposition groups in talks. But experts are sceptical, reports Haytham Nuri

Al-Ahram Weekly

A round of informal talks will open between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) in Berlin on 22 January, according to African Union officials.

Another round of informal talks on Darfur will open on 23 January, in the Ethiopian town of Debre Zeyit, between the Sudanese government and representatives of the Justice and Liberation Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM).

On 11 January, Qatari Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed bin Abdallah Al-Mahmoud had talks in Paris with JEM leader Gibril Ibrahim and SLM-MM leader Minni, as part of a Qatari drive to defuse tensions in Sudan.

The talks will have to overcome some obstacles, including rising tensions in West Darfur. A government security force, on 10 January, opened fire on hundreds of internally displaced persons who stormed the premises of the West Darfur state government to protest attacks by pro-government militiamen in Moli village, 20 kilometres south of El-Geneina, according to media reports.

The incident was described as a “massacre” by the opposition group Dar Masalit Union, which claimed that 51 people died in the attack.

Waddah Taber, secretary general of the Arab Coalition for Sudan, said that the “massacre” is likely to complicate further peace talks.

According to Taber, the Qataris are exerting pressure on both sides in order to score a diplomatic success that offsets the bad publicity Doha received over its support for militant Islamists in Syria.

Taber added that the bankrupt Sudanese government lacks the resources to persuade its opponents that peace would be in their favour.

The Sudanese government has suffered from a sharp decline in its revenues since the independence of South Sudan. Before the secession, oil sales made up 65 per cent of budget revenues in the north and 98 per cent in the south.

Ishraqa Khamis, writing for the online news site hurriyatsudan.com, said government forces have continued their aerial and artillery bombardment of civilian positions in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

In November 2015, the Sudan Council of Churches issued a report detailing human rights violations by government forces in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan. According to the report, government forces shelled Christian and Muslim places of worship and schools.

South Kordofan activist Nagwa Kanada said that the Sudanese government is blocking essential supplies to South Kordofan, including child vaccines. The government is also shelling residential areas, causing its population to flee their homes, Kanada added.

Walid Sayyed, professor of political science at the African University and a member of the ruling National Congress Party, said that the government genuinely seeks peace. He added that the talks are an opportunity for the rebels to establish their credibility and desire for peace.

In Khartoum and other cities, however, the government continues to clamp down on public freedoms. Recent reports indicate that the government has arrested dozens of party leaders, union leaders, writers and preachers who spoke out against its policies.

The Sudanese government is also said to have confiscated hundreds of issues of newspapers. About 21 publications were told to halt printing or had their issues confiscated, according to activists.

The chief editor of the newspaper Al-Maydan, the mouthpiece of the Sudanese Communist Party, is currently on trial and may face the death sentence.

According to Taber, the government is appealing to northern parties to back the regime against non-Arab opposition.

aOne such call was issued by the Forum of Just Peace, which is led by Al-Tayyb Mostafa, the maternal uncle of President Omar Al-Bashir.

In 2009, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Al-Bashir and several of his associates in connection with war crimes and crimes against humanity, principally in Darfur.

 

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