Doha: A New Beginning or Another False Hope?
The celebrations in Doha on Tuesday masked an agreement that has more questions than answers. One of these, if the so-called “Framework Agreement to resolve the Conflict in Darfur” (available here: Doha Accord) is to be taken at face value, as the signatories insist it must be, is this: Where in all this brouhaha is the resolution of the conflict? The gains for the NCP and JEM are obvious. But where are the gains for the people of Darfur, who in their vast majority (JEM propaganda to the contrary notwithstanding) reject the former Islamist politicians, most of them from a single tribe, who make up the rebel group’s top leadership?
The agreement that President Bashir says has ended the war in Darfur has everything to do with the interests of the NCP and JEM and precious little to do with peace in Darfur. President Bashir, who declared the war in Darfur over even as his forces attacked Jebel Marra, can parade himself as the candidate of peace when he kicks off his election campaign in al Fasher today. (JEM will presumably drop its insistence that he stand trial for genocide in line with the campaign JEM itself started in 2004. To do otherwise would hardly demonstrate the “goodwill” the agreement demands.) JEM chairman Khalil Ibrahim gets money and pride of place among the rebel movements. He gets the death sentence lifted from, and a promise of freedom for, his half-brother, who led JEM’s attack on Omdurman almost two years ago. Above all, he gets what those who know him best say he has always wanted””political power in Khartoum, for that surely is what is meant by “power at all levels of governance” (the italics are mine).
Only time will show whether Khalil’s rehabilitation will have a wider reflection, as many are speculating, on Sudan’s divided Islamist movement.
Ceasefire aside, the only specifics in Tuesday’s agreement are concessions to JEM, as laid out in Articles 2-7: full amnesty and release of prisoners of war, “participation… in power at all levels of governance”, reinstatement of “all military and civil personnel… fired from service”, with “all necessary expenses” to be paid by the government in the switchover phase. Only three articles concern Darfurians””and these are nothing more than a wish list, a restatement of the central issues that were identified when negotiations first began in 2004: compensation and the right of return, the future administrative structure of Darfur, and wealth-sharing. In some respects, the “Agreement of Good Will and Confidence Building for the Settlement of the Problem in Darfur” signed by JEM and the NCP in Doha exactly a year ago offered more than this. It committed the parties to creating a “conducive environment” for talks on a final settlement””including halting the arrest of IDPs and facilitating the access of humanitarian aid. This agreement, which in calling itself a “framework agreement” purports to go further than last year’s “goodwill agreement”, makes no reference either to IDPs or humanitarian aid. It allows one month for the final agreement that has already evaded six years of effort””two months fewer than the 2009 agreement.
The new agreement makes no mention of power-sharing, one of the three main chapters of the Abuja negotiations. JEM, it seems, will decide who in Darfur shares power and who does not. Critically, for the people of Darfur, there is no specific reference to the infamous “˜janjaweed’. What will their future be in the new order dictated by JEM and the NCP? How will their concerns be met? How will the people they threaten be protected? There is no mention of justice, reconciliation, or widening the agreement to attempt to make it inclusive rather than exclusive. After Abuja, does anyone doubt that a peace that is not inclusive is no peace at all? Yet within hours of signing in Doha, Dr. Khalil rejected a suggestion by Ghazi Salah el Din that the government sit down with other rebel factions.
For most Darfurians, the exclusive nature of the deal is ominous. The Addis Ababa and Tripoli groups have coalesced over recent days and chosen the former governor of Darfur, Tijani Sese Ateem, as their leader. He is a widely respected Fur politician from a leading family, but has lived abroad for twenty years. Dr. Tijani has been noticeably absent from the celebrations. Darfur’s Arabs, many of whom form the backbone of the NCP in the region, gave Ghazi Salah el Din a difficult reception when he returned from N’Djamena, seeing a repeat of the 2006 DPA that rewarded a Zaghawa leader (and an Islamist to boot, this time) with little support outside his own tribe.
Darfurians see another parallel with Abuja. After signing the DPA, Minni Minawi and the Sudanese Government both labeled their critics as enemies of peace and used the agreement as a pretext to crack down. Today government forces are attacking Jebel Marra, and JEM is silent. In Nyala, the NISS has roamed the city, closing the offices of civil society organizations and locking up several activists accusing them of possessing subversive material. This has not escalated into a full-scale clampdown, but the warning signs are there.
Thabo Mbeki is the only senior international who refused to dignify this NCP-JEM charade and who stayed away from the signing ceremony in Doha. He is reportedly standing by the recommendations of the AU Panel on Darfur report which called for inclusive negotiations that include all issues, including those notably absent from the Doha accords, such as justice and reconciliation. On that he is surely right, but what is his plan now?