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SUDAN-CHAD: Sultan appeals to Islamic states to save Darfur

DAKAR, 14 March 2008 (IRIN) - Darfur gets its name from its largest ethnic group in the region the Fur, who dominated the area for hundreds of years. Some 2.5 million people have been displaced in Darfur and hundreds of thousands of have died, many of them Fur. Two human rights groups, the US-based Save Darfur Coalition and the Senegalese group RADDHO (Recontre Africaine pour La Défense des Droits d l'Hommes), have sponsored the Sultan of the Fur, Salah Eldine Mahamat Fadoul, and one of his Islamic advisors to come to the Organization of Islamic Conference heads-of-state summit in Dakar this week to try to persuade Islamic leaders to work more actively to stop the violence in Darfur.

On 13 March the leaders of Chad and Sudan met at the OIC and signed an agreement to stop supporting rebels in their respective countries. IRIN spoke to Sultan Fadoul about this new agreement and the search for peace in Darfur. The following are excerpts:

IRIN: Do you think this new agreement will make a difference?

SULTAN FADOUL: It is good. I am hopeful that Sudan and Chad will stop supporting each other’s rebels and this will reduce tensions. I think Chad and Sudan really need to calm down the situation. The [proxy] war between them has cost them both a lot.

IRIN: Libya has negotiated many peace agreements between Chad and Sudan in the recent past and they have not worked. Why will this one be any different?

SULTAN FADOUL: This agreement was signed in front of [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon and many world leaders. It is possible that this agreement will fail also, but the chances of success I think are greater. [Libyan leader Muammar] Gaddafi likes to invite us to his country to talk and give money but he doesn’t try to understand the problems in Darfur. He likes to say that in the end the fighting is just over one camel, but it is a lot more complicated than that.

IRIN: What is needed to bring the violence in Darfur to an end?

SULTAN FADOUL: If the UN [African Union] hybrid force [UNAMID] could be deployed forcefully then our people would feel safer and the thousands who have been displaced would go home. But first the janjawid [Arab militias] need to be disarmed. The government can’t do this because they gave them the arms in the first place and the janjawid would resist. Only the UN has the capacity.

IRIN: But are you confident that the UN will really do this?

SULTAN FADOUL: We hope the UN hybrid force will be strong but we worry it will be weak like the former AU force. That was a very bad experience, although already the situation is somewhat better with the international community pressuring and monitoring the Sudanese government to stop the abuses.

IRIN: And yet attacks are continuing now in the Jebel Moon area

SULTAN FADOUL: Yes, in that sense the situation is not better because the Sudanese government is conducting aerial bombardments still believing that they can have a military solution rather than a political one. And it is mostly Fur civilians who are being displaced again.

IRIN: So what can be done?

SULTAN FADOUL: Well we are here in Dakar [for the OIC summit] to try to make Islamic leaders aware of the problem and aware that they could have a huge influence on stopping the conflict. We think the head of the OIC [Secretary General] Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu should head mediation efforts, along with [the next OIC chairman and president of Senegal, Abdoulaye] Wade and with the active participation of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. They, as well as Malaysia and China [which have invested heavily in extracting oil in Sudan] could have more influence on Sudan’s government than the UN, plus they could have influence over how seriously the UN deploys. Saudi Arabia should be speaking out with a megaphone. The US can also do a lot.

IRIN: What needs to happen exactly?

SULTAN FADOUL: The main thing, once the janjawid have been disarmed, is for the government and rebel groups to enter into negotiations. But then it is hard to have peace without a proper border agreement [between Chad and Sudan].

IRIN: Are the Arabs your enemies?

SULTAN FADOUL: We are all Muslims and my job as Sultan of Darfur is not just to represent the Fur people but to reconnect all the people of the region. We have tried to tell the Arabs that the government deceived them into killing us, their brothers, as a way to stop them from being able to have power in Khartoum. Now they are starting to realise and recognise that the Fur have the legitimate right to rule Darfur as we are the majority and we have ruled for hundreds of years. The Fur rulers have been fair when it comes to ‘hawakeer’ [land allocation] and we are just and peace-loving. We are now looking to organise a conference with all the people of Darfur. The problem is that the rebels are not free to cross [from Chad] and come into Sudan so it can’t happen just yet.

IRIN: You must sometimes find yourself in a difficult position politically?

SULTAN FADOUL: Oh! My job is so difficult. The government asks me to be an intermediary with the rebels but if I am seen as being too close to the rebels they say I am one of them. Indeed I have been put in prison twice. But, if I follow the government too much, the rebels will get angry with me and so will my people. More Fur have been displaced than any other group in Darfur and that has turned them against the government because it has allowed it to happen. I too will say frankly that the government is responsible. I may get into trouble for saying that but it is better that the government gets angry at me for telling the truth than Allah gets angry at me for lying.

dh/nr

Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Governance, (IRIN) Human Rights, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs

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Copyright © IRIN 2008
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.



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