Darfur: Why Doha Must Succeed
Recent months have witnessed the phenomenon of a growing chorus of criticisms of the Doha peace process. Carping is to be expected during any long drawn out peace negotiations and without any doubt the JCM Minister Bassole will have to answer many questions about his choice of strategy and tactics when the process finally concludes. His public relations leaves much to be desired as it is.
Notwithstanding legitimate questions about the questions of who is represented in Doha and the significance of proceeding with drafting substantive texts in the absence of Abdul Wahid al-Nour and Dr. Khalil Ibrahim, it is as clear as daylight that Doha is the only legitimate peace process for Darfur under these current circumstances. As someone who has contributed to these columns in the past with little good to say about the Doha process, the reader is entitled to know why I am forwarding this opinion.
To begin with, the Doha process is recognized by the United Nations, the African Union, the League of Arab States and all the major world powers without exception. Libya has stood against it and Egypt has signaled its discontent but no-one can argue that these rivalries among Arab states are anything other than petty political posturing. No other venue for peace talks can command the same legitimacy. Qatar has invested very substantially in providing diplomatic and financial support to the talks with a level of consistency and commitment that is commendabl and indeed without parallel. This stands in contrast to the half-hearted or on-off commitments of other countries that put their names forward as alternative hosts of the peace talks. Only Qatar will stay the course of the negotiations whatever the frustrations and twists and turns and this has become clear to all over the last months. Only Qatar will follow through with the peace dividend that all the people of Darfur deserve. If Doha fails then the Darfur peace process will return to forum shopping which could take months if not years before a new venue is agreed.
The GoS talks about “domesticating” the peace process for Darfur and holding talks inside Darfur. This is just old wine in new bottles and nothing more than a Darfuri version of the old “peace from within” programme which was a divide-and-rule strategy, nothing more nor less. The failed DPA planned a Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation (DDDC) which never got off the ground and which can be revived later to deal with conflicts among and between communities. In today’s situation of deteriorating security the chance that the leaders of the Armed Movements will accept assurances of safety from UNAMID, let alone Khartoum, and come to Darfur to attend a “domesticated” peace process are precisely nil.
Last year the international community put a deadline for a peace agreement to be reached before the elections. That deadline came and went. Now they are talking about a deadline of before the referendum. That might just be possible if the negotiators redouble their efforts with an injection of goodwill and international expertise and guidance when the talks restart after the end of Ramadhan. If any new process is started then the chances of any agreement being reached in time will shrink to a vanishingly small percentage.
The crisis at Kalma camp that has unfolded over the last two weeks shows exactly why Doha can not be allowed to fail. The anti-Doha group that controls Kalma and professes loyalty to Abdul Wahid could not tolerate the presence of the delegates who had been to Doha and returned with the news that the peace process was making real progress on the issues that are close to the hearts of the IDPs themselves. The extra judicial executions carried out allegedly by the camp sheikhs who subsequently took refuge with the UNAMID community police are a shameless attempt at intimidation, and were tragically neither the first nor the last attempt to stall the peace process in favour of the personal agenda of the spoiler in chief. Unfortunately UNAMID has only confused the situation by shifting the issue from pro- versus anti-peace forces to human rights guarantees for the accused persons which has served to embolden the spoilers. That victory for the anti-peace group is ephemeral and will in short order be overridden by the overwhelming desire of the ordinary people for peace.
The ordinary people of Darfur crave peace and will not tolerate the failure of the next peace agreement. What comes from Doha may not be the perfect peace but the Doha peace agreement will be better than the hopeless life of indignity and despair that is the daily reality for millions. Those who stand against it will be shown up as opportunists and egotists who do not care for their people and the people will punish them accordingly. The Qataris have displayed commitment beyond the call of duty and backed it up with resources including the promise of a substantial peace dividend in the form of infrastructure and social development. The expense and difficulty of bringing hundreds of civil society leaders to Doha is not to be minimized and it is safe to say that the Darfuris have greater confidence and trust in the Qataris than in many of their own so-called leaders who have delivered nothing. Doha is our best chance if not our last chance and we must take it with both hands.