On Wednesday October 24, UN envoy in Darfur, Jan Eliasson said, speaking from Eritrea via videoconference to New York, that it is still unclear exactly how many rebel leaders will participate in the peace talks in Sirte, Libya. The peace conference scheduled to begin on Saturday faces the risk of significant no-shows.
The meetings will attempt to end the conflict in Darfur which has already resulted in the death of more than 200,000 people and forced more than 2 millions to leave their homes. However, expectations have become low for the talks, which UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had termed as the â€œfinal talks.â€
Some rebel groups have already affirmed that they will not attend the talks, and others have not confirmed yet. Elliasson has called all parties to come together to solve the problem. He also thinks that there are still uncertainties of political and logistical nature. Eliasson has attempted to persuade various movements that they did not have to settle their differences prior to the talks.
Eliasson also thinks that the Sudanese government is not trying to hinder UN efforts in bringing participants in the talks to Libya, but that there is some bureaucracy getting in the way. There appears to be some problem obtaining travel permits and logistcis in transporting civil service participants. Some last minute confirmations are accepted and Eliasson hopes that some rebel leaders will then join the talks later. Other problems also occured, that are outside of the control of the U.N., such as fragmentation of rebel groups into warring subgroups and a government dispute between southern SPLM and northern National Congress leaders in the Parliament over national unity.
The responsibility for both parties, the rebel movements and the government, is grave according to Eliasson, and facilitation for civil society to come to the meeting shall be assured. However key leaders of rebel groups, such as Abdelwahid al-Nur of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and Ahmed Abdelshafi of an SLM faction have already indicated they will boycott the talks, while Khalil Ibrahim of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) has asked for a delay.
These peace talks are crucial for the conflict resolution of Darfur. Rebel movements need to forget their differences, as Eliasson says, and attend the meetings if they hope for a peaceful Darfur. The UN-African Union hybrid force scheduled to intervene in December could be delayed, since the government of Sudan is still insisting that the peace force shall only be composed of Africans. Therefore the government is lacking efforts in implementing necessary tasks in order for the peace force to arrive on schedule. Thus, UNâ€™s role as a peacekeeping force seems to be very difficult in Darfur. Effective peace talks between the African movements in Darfur and the government appears to be the only solution in the horizon. If the talks fail to be effective, the resolution of the conflict in Darfur could be postponed for a long time.