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Darfur War - 2005

A Declaration of Principles for the Resolution of the Sudanese Conflict in Darfur was signed in July 2005. The agreement of the Government of Sudan, Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice Equality Movement to the Declaration's 17 points provided a framework for negotiations on wealth and power sharing as part of the Darfur political settlement. The agreement was also designed to create security conditions that would permit the return of the internally displaced persons as well as those who sought refuge in Chad. The African Union played a pivotal role in successfully mediating the talks. The United States' observer team, headed by retired Ambassador John Yates, supported the efforts to achieve these Principles. The Principles serve as a basis for further good faith political dialogue between the parties. The crisis in Darfur and implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement are interrelated issues.

Taken together, the Declaration of Principles and the 9 July 2005 installation of the Presidency of the Government of National Unity constituted significant progress toward the goal of achieving peace throughout Sudan. The interim government was established by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed on 9 January 2005 in Nairobi. It was designed to last 6 years before concluding with a referendum on Southern independence. As part of the power sharing structure, leaders of the rebel group, Sudan People's Liberation Movement Army John Garang was sworn in as the vice-President with Omar al-Bashir retaining the Presidency. The once bitter enemies signed the interim constitution as well as selected members for the new parliament. As a sign of goodwill, Garang's SPLM/A released more that 150 prisoners or war days before the implementation of the government.

However, reports of non-political violence continued in the south, including widespread banditry, lawlessness, and rape. On July 26 armed engagements between rebel and government forces threatened to ruin the cease-fire and end the reprieve of relative peace. Each side blamed the other for initiating the fighting which culminated with helicopter raids on southern villages.

Another tragic setback for peace came on July 31 when the helicopter carrying vice-president Garang back to Sudan from peace talks in Uganda crashed in bad weather. The death of the influential leader from the south and crucial architect of the peace process set off riots across the country. In the capital of Khartoum, tens of thousands of protesters began looting and fire-fights broke out between the crowds and the Sudanese police force. Large scale unrest also flared up in Juba, one of the largest cities in the south. Salva Kiir Mayardit, who had served as Garang's deputy for the SPLM/A, was named his successor for both the SPLM/A and the vice-presidency pleaded for calm and an end to the riots. On August 2, Jan Pronk, head of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) attempted to dispel the rumors that the helicopter had been shot down or sabotaged as the riots continued. After 3 days of rioting which was responsible for at least 130 deaths, order was finally restored to the capital before Garang's funeral in the city of Juba.

It was feared that the death of Garang would undermine the new government and prevent further negotiations with the remaining rebel groups. However, amidst these concerns and the continuing degradation of the nation's security and economic condition, new hope came on August 24, 2005. After pushing back the date to September 15, 2005, the two largest rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLM) agreed to continue peace talks with the Sudanese government in Abuja, Nigeria. The African Union continued its commitment to mediate the talks and pledged to increase the force of its peacekeeping troops to 7,000 by the end of September.

As talks began in Abuja, violence continued in Darfur, including looting, pillaging, and attacks on humanitarian convoys as well as violations of the cease-fire between rebel and government forces. While the negotiations failed to gain any ground, another event seemed poised to destroy the cease-fire and throw the warring factions back into armed conflict. Claiming retaliation for a raid by the SPLM/A on August 25, 2005 which killed six and stole 2,000 camels, the nomadic tribesman attacked a rebel stronghold in Jebel Marra, Darfur on Sept. 20, resulting in the death or 30 tribesmen and 10-15 rebels. In the wake of this incident, tribesman began mobilizing in preparation for more combat. On September 21, SPLM/A rebels overtook the government fortified town of Shareya, northeast of Nyala in South Darfur. The violence drove out humanitarian agencies working in Shareya and nearby Mohajuria, leaving behind nearly 77,000 people who had been receiving assistance. These actions were predicted to provoke government reprisals.

As of September 23, 2005 the situation in Sudan remained dire. Since the eruption of violence in the Darfur region in February of 2003, the ongoing battle between the rebel forces and government backed Janjaweed had driven an estimated 2 million natives from their home with some 200,000 fleeing into neighboring chad. The fighting as well as the killing of civilians and the miserable conditions of refugees had been responsible for 180,000 deaths. That number was an approximation since the circumstances do not allow for a more accurate death toll, and the true number could very well be much higher than that. Despite the best efforts of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), the African Unions Mission in Sudan (AMIS), and the humanitarian NGOs, supplies remained scarce and security insufficient to guarantee a safe return home for the survivors. The signing and implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement created the interim government integrated with the rebel group SPLM/A, ending, on paper, the country's 21 year civil war. The new national unity government in conjuncture with the ongoing peace talks with the remaining rebel groups provides the potential for peace and stability in the region. However, the fragility of Sudan's cease-fire remains painfully apparent in the wake of continued engagements drawn along ethnic and political lines. There also seems to be increasing division and dissent in the ranks of the rebel militias, leading to further chaos and violence preventing the peace process. The longer the country remains embattled, the further these conditions will degrade, creating conditions for even more suffering.

As of October 2005, the African Union, with the support of the United Nations had a contingent of approximately 6,000 AU soldiers to monitor a ceasefire. At that time it was estimated that there were 1.8 million people in camps in Darfur, with another 200,000 refugees in Chad. Despite the ceasefire and AU force, it was widely reported that the security situation deteriorated significantly. Not only were refugees and AU members attacked and victimized, but aid and humanitarian workers were also attacked, raped and looted. As a result international aid and its workers had virtually ground to a halt. Most of the attacks were carried out by the Janjaweed militia. Because of this worsened condition, as of the end of November 2005, the UN had temporarily withdrawn all non-essential staff from West Darfur.

While the SLM and Janjaweed are primarily to blame for many of the attacks and raids, the Sudanese government had done virtually nothing to help the AU force that was assigned to enforce the ceasefire. Furthermore, Khartoum had failed to carry out its ceasefire obligation to disarm or control the Janjaweed.




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