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Backgrounder: Structuring A Peace Process for Darfur

Council on Foreign Relations

Author: Stephanie Hanson, News Editor
October 11, 2007


Since the Sudanese government agreed in July 2007 to the deployment of a joint United Nations/African Union peacekeeping force for Darfur, international attention has shifted to facilitating a political process to bring about peace on the ground. Previous peace talks led to the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) in May 2006, which was only signed by one of Darfur’s rebel groups and lacked legitimacy to many Darfurians. Darfur’s rebel groups have multiplied in the peace agreement’s aftermath, and the original conflict between two rebel groups and the Sudanese government has metastasized into chaotic violence that includes sparring among Arab tribal groups, between rebel groups and AU peacekeepers, and between Arab militias and the Sudanese government. Under such conditions, a successful political settlement cannot be negotiated solely between Khartoum and Darfur’s rebel groups. As a result, experts say a more inclusive round of negotiations than currently envisioned may be necessary.

Herding Cats: Bringing the Rebels Together

The UN/AU mediation team, led by UN Special Envoy Jan Eliasson and AU Envoy Salim Ahmed Salim, has worked for months to unify Darfur’s rebel groups, the second phase of their road-map (PDF) for the political process. When the conflict in Darfur began, there were two rebel groups, but current estimates of the number of factions range from twelve to twenty-five. The political stance of many of these groups is unclear; some appear to be little more than bandits with weapons. In August 2007, eight factions met in Tanzania and agreed on a common negotiating position. Several important rebel leaders did not attend this meeting, however, and an upsurge in violence during subsequent months—including a rebel attack on AU peacekeepers in September 2007 that left at least ten dead—underscores the continued rebel fragmentation.

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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