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UN envoy urges people of Darfur to participate in new dialogue initiative

25 February 2011 – The head of the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID), Ibrahim Gambari, has urged inhabitants of the troubled Sudanese region to engage in dialogue to find a solution to their protracted conflict, saying a process of popular consultations would soon begin.

“Now is the time for all Darfuris, for the Government and the opposition, for the armed groups and for the government forces, to come together and enter in a dialogue designed to resolve their differences and herald peace in Darfur,” Mr. Gambari wrote in an op-ed published in today’s edition of the Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom.

He said that the Darfur Political Process, which he described as “a series of broadly inclusive popular consultations” would give everyone an opportunity to express their views on how the conflict can be brought to an end.

“Crucial to the credibility and prospects for success of this Darfur-based initiative is the need to ensure that those represented are able to participate without fear of being harmed, harassed, detained or otherwise restricted as a result of their involvement.

“I have sought and obtained assurances from the highest levels of government that steps will be taken for a suitable, enabling environment that protects the basic rights and freedoms of all participants,” Mr. Gambari wrote.

He said that some stakeholders had expressed concern that the initiative may be susceptible to interference and manipulation, but gave the assurance that he and former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, and the African Union high-level panel on Darfur that he chairs, had elicited pledges from the government that it will respect the independence of the process and refrain from interfering in it.

Mr. Gambari urged the international community to “stay the course in Sudan and replicate recent achievements in the implementation of the north-south peace process by brokering peace in Darfur.”

The people of Southern Sudan voted overwhelming in a referendum in January to secede from the rest of the country.

The vote was the culmination of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended two decades of civil war between the North and the South that claimed the lives of some two million people and drove an estimated 4.5 million others from their homes.

“The immediate post-referendum environment presents an ideal opportunity to marshal our common resolve to broker, successfully and honestly, a durable solution to the conflict. The people of Darfur deserve no less than our collective and full commitment to attain this goal. Their lives, their hopes, their dreams and their futures depend on it,” wrote Mr. Gambari.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, told a Security Council session on peace and security in Africa that peace talks in the Qatari capital, Doha, between the Government of Sudan and the two main rebel groups in Darfur are continuing and that the parties are currently reviewing a draft agreement.

“It is essential for the international community to step up its engagement and help the parties reach an inclusive and comprehensive peace,” said Mr. Ban, referring to the talks between the Sudanese Government, the Justice and Equality Movement and the Liberation and Justice Movement.

The Secretary-General also voiced concern over hostilities between the Government and an alliance of rebel groups in North Darfur state, which has reportedly displaced large numbers of civilians.

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