Sudanese gov't signs ceasefire deal with key rebel group

10:05, February 24, 2010      

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The Sudanese government late Tuesday signed here a ceasefire agreement with the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a key rebel group in Darfur, in a big step toward ending seven years of conflicts.


Qatar's Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Abdullah al-Mahmud, Representative of the Sudanese government Amin Hassan Omar, Sudanese rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) representative Ahmed Tugod Lissan and chief negotiator, Justice and Equality Movement and UN African Union mediator Djibril Bassole (L-R, Front) take part in the signing of an agreement in Doha, capital of Qatar, Feb. 23, 2010. The Sudanese government late Tuesday signed here a ceasefire agreement with the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a key rebel group in Darfur, in a big step toward ending the seven-year conflicts. (Xinhua/Maneesh Bakshi)

The temporary ceasefire deal was considered a prelude to a permanent peace agreement, which has to gain the support of other rebel groups in the western Sudanese region.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir signed the long-awaited truce with Khalil Ibrahim, leader of the rebel group JEM.

Al-Bashir said the signature was a significant step toward ending conflicts in Darfur and he hoped a final peace accord could be sealed by mid-March.

Ibrahim said the truce, breaking up years of standstill in the western Sudanese region's peace process, would take effect midnight Tuesday.

He hailed the framework deal as a very important step forward.


Amin Hassan Omar, Sudan's Minister of Culture (1st, L, Front) shakes hands with Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) chief negotiator Ahmed Mohamed Tugod Lissan (C, Front) after signing a ceasefire agreement in Doha, capital of Qatar, Feb. 23, 2010. The Sudanese government late Tuesday signed here a ceasefire agreement with the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a key rebel group in Darfur, in a big step toward ending the seven-year conflicts. (Xinhua/Maneesh Bakshi)

Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno, Qatari Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Eritrean President Isaias Afworki and officials from the United Nations, Arab nations and the United States were also present at the signing ceremony.

TV footage from Doha-based al-Jazeera showed leaders shook hands and embraced after the signing of the historic deal.

Khartoum and the JEM, led by Khalil Ibrahim, initially reached the ceasefire framework deal on Saturday in Chad, wrapping up several rounds of hard negotiations and talks.

The framework would stipulate future peace negotiations, including a permanent ceasefire deal expected to be finalized by mid-March, ahead of the country's April presidential and legislative elections.


Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (C, in yellow) and other delegates celebrate the signing of an agreement in Doha, capital of Qatar, Feb. 23, 2010. The Sudanese government late Tuesday signed here a ceasefire agreement with the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a key rebel group in Darfur, in a big step toward ending the seven-year conflicts. (Xinhua/Maneesh Bakshi)

However, further talks on a peace deal doomed to be hard as the various parties involved in the peace process have entrenched in their positions on key issues in the past years which has led previous ceasefire deals to abortion.

According to documents setting out the terms of the deal, the Sudanese government would offer government positions for the JEM, who will also be transformed into a political party after a final peace accord was realized, the Qatar News Agency reported.

Devastating fightings flared in Darfur that borders Chad in 2003 between ethnic rebels and the Sudanese government forces have left around 300,000 people dead and 2.7 million others displaced, the UN estimates.

The UN Security Council in 2008 dispatched a hybrid force, the African Union/United Nations Hybrid operation in Darfur (UNAMID), in a mission to the volatile region to stamp out unabated violence and protect civilians.

Sudan has expressed the hope that other rebel groups could also return to negotiations with the government, but the hardline Sudan Liberation Army has so far shunned the offer.


Qatar's Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Abdullah al-Mahmud (L) talks with Sudanese rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) representative and chief negotiator Ahmed Tugod Lissan during a press conference after the signing of an agreement in Doha, capital of Qatar, Feb. 23, 2010. The Sudanese government late Tuesday signed here a ceasefire agreement with the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a key rebel group in Darfur, in a big step toward ending the seven-year conflicts. (Xinhua/Maneesh Bakshi)

Four of the smaller rebel groups, also present in Doha, on Tuesday said they have come together as the Liberation Movement for Justice and expressed the will to engage in face-to-face talks with Khartoum.

Qatar, the mediator of the Darfur peace process, said it seeks to establish a development bank in Darfur at a capital of 2 billion U.S. dollars to help the development of the Darfur region.

The world's top liquified natural gas (LNG) exporter has hosted several rounds of talks between Khartoum and rebel groups in the past years and also called on other Arab nations to help reconstruct Darfur.

Qatari amir also called on the other rebel groups to join the peace process to reach a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the conflicts in Darfur.

Source: Xinhua
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