NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – As Darfur marks the 10th anniversary of the outbreak of war, activists have called on the international community to stop supporting and funding the “failed” Doha peace process and push for broader talks with rebels.
Earlier this month, donors pledged $3.6 billion for development in Darfur at a conference in Doha, Qatar. The UK government pledged $102 million over three years, half of which will go to Darfur and the rest to the war-torn border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
“I think that they [the UK government] shouldn’t attend Doha because Doha is very much seen as a Sudanese government machine,” Olivia Warham, director of Waging Peace, a lobby group campaigning to end conflict in Sudan, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“A far more robust stance would be to say that they will no longer contribute to Doha whilst Khartoum continues to bomb its own civilians.”
The conflict in Darfur began on April 25, 2003, when rebels attacked a Sudanese military garrison, accusing the government of neglecting the remote region and marginalising its ethnic minorities.
In response, the government-allied Janjaweed militia attacked ethnic groups affiliated with the rebels. U.S. President George Bush called the conflict a “genocide”.
Fighting flared up earlier this year, despite the presence of the world's largest peacekeeping mission, UNAMID. More than 130,000 people have fled their homes since the start of the year, in addition to 1.4 million already living in camps across Darfur, according to the United Nations.
The government has been trying to convince donors that the war is largely over and wants help to rebuild the region.
At the April 7–8 Doha conference, Rachel Turner of Britain’s Department for International Development said London would continue to give aid “as long as we see improvements in the security and access situations.”
“Security is deteriorating all the time,” said Warham. “And yet the aid continues to be given.”
UNAMID regularly expresses concern over its inability to reach populations in need of aid. Earlier this month, a UNAMID peacekeeper was shot dead in eastern Darfur, the 44th peacekeeper killed there since 2007.
The Sudanese government signed the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur with the rebel Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) in July 2011. A faction of the Justice and Equality Movement rebels led by Mohamed Bashar joined in April 2013.
But the three most prominent rebel groups have refused to sign.
“The international community should stop supporting the Doha process because it has failed,” Omer Ismail, a Darfuri activist, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“It was signed by the weakest faction of the rebel groups and was not able to garner support among the Darfuri IDP [Internally Displaced Persons] or refugee communities, as well as turning into an employment opportunity for the leaders of LJM while insecurity and violence worsen on the ground.”
The LJM now has ministers in the federal government and a strong presence in the Darfur Regional Authority, tasked with implementing the peace deal.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern that “limited progress” has been made in implementing the peace deal. This makes it unlikely that other rebel groups will rally behind the accord.
“People are hanging on to the Doha peace agreement, I think, for fear of admitting that it is not working,” said Warham. “It either needs to be completely revisited or abandoned.”
Ismail said the international community should push for a new negotiating process which includes all rebel groups in Sudan.
The government is also fighting rebels in the southern border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The first peace talks between the two sides opened under the auspices of the African Union in Ethiopia on Wednesday.
In 2011 the South Kordofan and Blue Nile rebels formed an alliance with the Darfuri rebels, called the Sudanese Revolutionary Front, seeking to overthrow the government.
Ismail said “piecemeal” government negotiations with different rebel groups would never bring peace to Sudan. “For stability and peace and security for the people of the region, not just Sudan, they need to address these issues seriously and a comprehensive solution is the only way,” he said.
“The government of Sudan is not interested in that because it still adopts a military/security strategy in dealing with Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The piecemeal model fits them fine.”