Posted by Kuku on 8:12 PM

Well, it is only an 'agreement of understanding' -- something that will lay the groundwork for peace talks that will hopefully lead to a peace agreement between both sides. Among other things, the agreement outlines a prisoner swap between the government and the Justice and Equality Movement. These prisoners would undoubtedly include those captured after the brazen JEM attack on Omdurman by the Sudanese government. One of those detained is the brother of Khalil Ibrahim, the commander of the JEM. According to AlJazeera, the prisoners would be exchanged in several batches, leading to the peace talks that would be held at a later time.

This is a very serious and positive development. For some reason, I believe these peace talks will lead to a more robust agreement, unlike the failed and moribund Abuja talks that led to the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement. I think this will be mainly because of the location and the organizers. Holding the peace talks in Doha, Qatar, a major Arab capital, under the auspices of the Qatari government, the Arab League, African Union and the United Nations, forces the government to take the talks, and any resulting agreement, very seriously. If they renege or back away from the agreement, it will not be very convincing to claim that the mediators or the venue were not fair or unbiased. It will be much harder for them to blame the Qataris than it is for them to blame the Americans (the main architects of the DPA) for anyof the agreement's (potential) shortcomings.

Here is a two part "Inside Story" program that focuses on the Doha talks.

There has been some major progress in Doha, Qatar. The Sudanese Government, represented by Nafi Ali Nafi, held face-to-face meetings with the leadership of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), led by Khalil Ibrahim and is working on signing an 'agreement of good intentions'.

Posted by Kuku on 7:01 PM

The arrest warrant against the Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir seems to be imminent. The New York Times is reporting that the arrest warrant has been approved - but it seems the ICC is keeping it underraps as per this SudanTribune article. This could be a ploy by the ICC to keep the arrest warrant a secret, allowing them to arrest the President if he decides to go abroad and visit one of the member states of the Rome Statute, the agreement that created the court, without having publicly announced the arrest warrant. Or, they can simply still be in the process of working out the final details. Only time will tell. All the while, 'negotiations' between the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the government are taking place in Doha, Qatar. 

No one knows what (if any) tangible effects this arrest warrant will have on the peace talks and the situation in Sudan as a whole. Some, like Alex de Waal believe this could lead to a very dangerous situation

In my opinion, the effects of this indictment are going to be very serious. The reality is that the Khartoum government, led by Al-Bashir, has shown very little commitment to the peace process in Darfur and has been lagging on the implementation of the CPA. The indictment could have been postponed for a renewable one year period, under the behest of the UN Security Council. This possibility of postponing the arrest warrant (which is all but gone now) was the only incentive pushing the government to sit down with the same group that brazenly attacked Omdurman only last year. Without this incentive, the government will feel hemmed in even more and have no impetus to take serious action. 

Also, this arrest warrant has emboldened the rebels and given them more clout, especially for the ongoing negotiations in Doha. This is evident by the recent defiant warning by Khalil Ibrahim, the leader of the JEM, who claimed that if Al-Bashir does not hand himself over to the Hague-based court, the rebel group will arrest him personally and hand him over. This is obvious posturing and is very unhelpful, further isolating the hope for peace. 

If the arrest warrant goes ahead and is publicly announced, this will be a major setback for the NCP and could be the crippling blow many of the regime's enemies have been waiting for. It could set in motion a series of domino effects that could lead to the unravelling of the CPA, the further inflaming of the war in Darfur and the eventual breakup of the entire country. This is a very bleak outlook, but, it is unfortunately very plausible. 

Posted by Kuku on 12:20 PM

The United Nations is becoming more and more ineffective in Darfur, as the Sudanese government continues to undermine the peacekeeping operation there. Khartoum is proving its unwillingness to achieve peace. Obviously, the rebels share some of the blame for the recent escalation in violence, but it is Khartoum's responsibility to achieve peace, by agreeing to the demands of the JEM (et al.). 

Here is a video from the BBC of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaking at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa. 

Posted by Kuku on 10:44 PM

Apparently the plan to relocate the displaced Palestinian population near the Iraq-Syria border is finally coming to fruition. Reuters is covering the story here. I also wrote about this story a while back, read this and this.

According to Refugees international:
 Approximately 34,000 stateless Palestinians have lived in Iraq since 2003. Since the beginning of U.S. military operations in Iraq, many suffered persecution at the hands of the Iraqi government and other armed groups. More than 3,000 fled to the Syrian-Iraqi border, where they live in makeshift tents in the desert with limited access to basic services. Syria refuses to allow them to enter its territory and only a few have been resettled, mostly to Sweden and Chile.
I simply cannot understand the logic behind this decision. The Sudanese government (i.e. the ruling NCP) has decided it wants to help by providing pre-built shelters to these Palestinians. This is outrageous and seriously sickening. It is a slap in the face, to every Sudanese man, women and child! Not only is the NCP refusing to provide these same facilities to the citizens of the country, the rightful owners of the wealth and land, they are refusing to stop the active war against those same civilians in Darfur. They will do their best to condemn the recent Israeli offensive in Gaza while at the same time continue an arguably more brutal war under their own sovereign territory. Additionally, this government has made it clear that it does not want to pursue peace, justice, and the rule of law. 

Indeed, these Palestinians deserve a dignified resettlement. If Syria, the country most suitable to accept this displaced population, has refused to accept them, why should Sudan? There are tens of thousands of Sudanese citizens who have been forced to flee their homes and live in makeshift camps in and around the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. These people are denied their most basic rights, and are forced to live in the most humiliating circumstances. Basic amenities such as electricity, running water and sanitation are not provided.

Unfortunately, the NCP has been successful in squashing any opposition to their rule. If this happened in the pre-NCP Sudan, thousands of people would have taken to the streets and protested this action. I think the only group who is in a position to stop this great injustice is the SPLM. They supposedly share part of the power in the Government of National (dis)Unity. May must stop this resettlement process from occurring, at the highest levels of government. It is mainly their constituents  which have been forgotten and quarrel in these camps. They must make it clear to the NCP that they oppose this decision and work actively to stop it. 

Do not get me wrong, I have a lot of sympathy for the Palestinian people. However, Sudan is one of the last places where they should be resettled. It is obvious that the NCP does not care about the suffering of the Palestinians. They are only trying to convince their Arab "brethren" in Damascus, Jeddah and Cairo that they care. What they really need to do is to provide for the orphans of Mygoma, the millions displaced in Darfur, and the majority of Sudanese who live in squalor and poverty.