Darfur: Going Nowhere in Doha
Djibrill Bassolé, chief mediator at the Doha peace talks, had a plan: a ceasefire between the hard men, which meant focusing initially on JEM among the armed movements; then a coalition of SLA splinters””ideally with Abdul Wahid, but if necessary without; then civil society, to give a stable core to the process.
So where are we today, almost two years after Bassole was appointed and almost 18 months after the first Doha talks? The ceasefire, such as it was, has collapsed””in spectacular fashion. JEM has withdrawn from Doha and is in a de facto alliance with SLA-Abdul Wahid with the stated intention of preventing government forces and militias from occupying Jebel Marra (which SLA-AW has only been able to defend thanks to support from JEM and, horribly, a government-supported militia). Attempts to form a coalition of SLA splinters have led to increased intra-factional fighting and further alienated Abdul Wahid””and the IDP camps he controls””from the peace process. Civil society did more in Doha than the movements have done””by coming up with a position paper to which every single individual subscribed””but saw the door slammed in its face by JEM, which has been insisting on a monopoly over peace-making.
At last count, 280 rebels were enjoying five-star luxury in Doha, with $35 per diems on top of their hotel bills. Few were actively involved in peace talks, if you can call what has been happening in Doha “˜talks’. As I understand it, the parties have not been sitting down together; mediators have been shuttling back and forth between them. Most of the time in Doha seems to have been spent devising workshops to keep the 280-odd “˜delegates’ occupied and give the illusion of activity.
The new fighting in Darfur, already highlighted by Alex, has not only been costly in human life. It has also, once again, targeted civilians. UNAMID is investigating reports of “˜gross’ human rights violations by government forces and militias in the battle for Jebel Mun, with many civilians (including women) reportedly “˜assaulted and tortured’. JEM, on the run, has stolen fuel and other commodities from civilians. There are reports that, before being driven from Jebel Mun, JEM’s men engaged in extortion and destroyed wells as a “˜retaliation measure'””presumably for support given to the breakaway Justice and Reform Movement of the local Missiriya Jebel community.
Humanitarian access is obstructed and constrained by insecurity and kidnappings. More than 60,000 displaced people have been cut off in Jebel Marra for months now. (I would mention in passing, here, that initial estimates of civilians killed in the government’s Jebel Marra offensive appear to have been exaggerated. In many cases, the Fur apparently took to the hills before their villages were bombed. A final determination will not be possible of course while full and free access is denied.)
With few exceptions, Darfur lobbies appear to have fallen asleep, waking only occasionally to lob a few shots at the US envoy, Gen. Scott Gration.
Reading the reports from Doha, you would have no idea that the entire structure envisaged by the mediation has collapsed, that the ceasefire is in tatters and the Sudan government, as far as one can see, is set on destroying the only movement capable of mounting a military challenge to it. And what a challenge: in one clash on 16 May, JEM ambushed a massive commercial convoy (600 trucks including 126 fuel tankers, according to one report) and killed 71 members of the Central Reserve Police escort””for the loss of only 23 JEM fighters.
The mediation is talking of ensuring that the “˜right stakeholders’ are at the table. Is it possible, after April’s elections, to have the “˜right’ stakeholders at the table? It is talking of developing “˜detailed ceasefire monitoring, verification and implementation plans and arrangements’ for the “˜existing ceasefire’. What ceasefire? It is talking of organising “˜broad-based and inclusive political consultations inside Darfur, conducted by UNAMID’. Does UNAMID have the capacity to organize such consultations, even in the best of times (which these certainly aren’t)? I rather doubt it.
The process begun in Doha will continue because it can’t be stopped. Senior UN officials admit that privately. Suspend a peace process intended to end a “˜genocide’? Impossible. But it’s time to stop pretending that there is reason for optimism. There isn’t. This peace process is going nowhere. Admitting that might be a first step forward.