Weekly Roundup: Darfur Pre-negotiations .. The Devil Is in the Detail

Muawad Mustafa Rashid

Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) leader Gibril Ibrahim announced that a pre-negotiation agreement with the Sudanese government will be signed in Berlin paving the way for the resumption of peace talks between the two sides. The deal which will be signed by the Sudanese government, JEM and Sudan Liberation Movement – Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) provides that the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) will serve as a basis for the negotiations.
Also, the agreement, which was brokered by the German government, says that the armed groups can add further issues to the agenda of the talks and that a new independent implementation mechanism will be set up to enforce the would-be-signed deal. JEM leader said during the past period they held different meetings with the mediators and facilitators to define the roles of the different mediation mechanisms, the DDPD place in the upcoming talks, the issues to be discussed and its link to Darfur or the entire Sudan, and finally the establishment of the new implementation mechanism.After the signing of the pre-talks deal, the parties on Darfur peace process will discuss a humanitarian cessation of hostilities deal in Addis Ababa brokered by the AUHIP and then move to Doha where the Qatari and the AU-UN mediator will mediate the peace talks.
During a recent meeting with the Joint Chief Mediator Jeremiah Mamabolo in Addis Ababa on 23 November, Ibrahim and Minnawi signed a draft pre-negotiation agreement to demonstrate their commitment to reach a lasting peace agreement ending the war in Darfur region.
On the other hand Sudan Call alliance will meet on 9 December with the AUHIP Chair Thabo Mbeki to discuss his proposal to move directly to the constitutional conference once the armed groups sign peace deals ending war in Darfur and the Two Areas. The AUHIP adopts the same position as the government, and believes that the parties have to discuss the drafting of the Constitution and then participate in the elections.
The Sudanese government would dispatch two envoys to Berlin and Addis Ababa as part of the efforts to resume the peace talks in Darfur and the Two Areas. The presidential assistant and head of the government negotiating team for the Two Areas talks Dr. Faisal Hassan Ibrahim will leave for Addis Ababa to meet with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/North (SPLM-N). Also, the Presidential Envoy for Diplomatic Contact and Negotiation for Darfur Dr. Amin Hassan Omer will travel to Berlin on Monday evening to meet with the leaders of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM-MM) led by Minni Minnawi to sign a pre-negotiation agreement.
Berlin meeting is expected to discuss a number of issues including defining the role of the mediation, agreeing on the negotiation issues, approving a new implementation mechanism as well as how to deal with the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) in the future talks. Following the Berlin meeting, Omer will travel to Addis Ababa to join the head of the negotiating team for the Two Areas talks Faisal Hassan Ibrahim.
The government and the armed groups in Darfur held several meetings in Berlin earlier this year to discuss a framework agreement (pre-negotiation agreement) before to engage in the peace talks. After a recent meeting held in Addis Ababa on 22-23 November, the African Union’s Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) said the leaders of JEM and SLM-MM initialed the draft framework agreement for the peace talks.
The African Union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP) is brokering comprehensive peace talks to end the war and achieve democratic reforms. The two-track process comprises the Sudanese government and opposition forces including the armed groups in Darfur and the Two Areas.
Meanwhile, leader of the National Umma Party (NUP) and head of the Sudan Call, Imam Sadiq Al-Mahdi, said the AUHIP has invited the opposition alliance for a meeting with the Sudanese government on 9 December in Addis Ababa. In his weekly recorded message on Monday, Al-Mahdi said he accepted the invitation to meet with the government team, pointing out that he considers it as the preliminary meeting that was provided for in the Roadmap Agreement.
He expressed his support to the meetings between the government and the armed groups in Doha, Juba and Berlin, saying the meeting aims to achieve technical agreements on the cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access and the exchange of prisoners.
The AUHIP chief Thabo Mbeki is expected to visit Sudan during the next couple of weeks to lay out a proposal to the government on how to resume the peace talks in Darfur and the Two Areas. Meanwhile, the Sudanese government and the rebel movements in Darfur and the Two Areas have handed over position papers to the African mediation on how to resume the peace talks. The negotiating parties have developed a package of proposals to push forward the peace process including on the cessation of hostilities and delivery of humanitarian assistance. Mbeki is currently mulling over the proposals to develop the agenda of the talks and the negotiation approach. The expected Berlin deal is considered an agreement of restoring confidence and easing the mission of the brokers.
The good intensions agreement between JEM and the government was the first meeting that paved the way for the DDPD, while the roadmap was the facilitator for the comprehensive resolution of the Sudanese crisis. The common denominator between the boosting confidence agreements is the failure in striking a deal and the collapse of the direct talks. We believe that the pre-negotiations meeting is a step forward to activate the settlement of Darfur crisis and bring an end to the conflict despite the complications surrounding the issue. There are several stages of negotiations before reaching a final settlement such as cessation of hostilities, the framework agreement then entering into the direct negotiations on the essential issues and addressing the roots of the crisis.
However, it seems that the pre-negotiations meetings might succeed if the armed groups come to the talks without demands other than addressing the actual crisis and not the political track, because concentrating on the political track will lead to scattering the files of the negotiations between Doha and Addis Ababa, hence making it difficult for the mediators to separate between the partial and comprehensive agreements.
Let us hope that the negotiations will bring the process to its logical conclusions after the hard work of the partners to prepare the theatre for the negotiators.

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