Sudan Peace Deal
News is breaking about a peace agreement that may help end the horror of the civil war in Sudan.
Sudan’s government and the main Darfur rebel group signed a peace plan Friday, marking major progress in an internationally backed effort to end the death and destruction in western Sudan. Two rebel groups, though, rejected the accord backed by the African Union, United States, Britain, the European Union and the Arab League and skipped the signing ceremony in a hall at a Nigerian presidential villa. Optimism was muted by that and a history of failure to live up to agreements struck over two years of negotiations in the Nigerian capital.
Observers broke into applause and whoops of joy as the parties signed the last page and then proceeded to initial each of the 85 pages of a document written by the African Union and then revised by U.S., British and other envoys to meet rebel concerns. The hall was filled with traditional leaders in white turbans, fighters in camouflage turbans, diplomats and journalists. [AP]
The lack of participation of rival guerrillas is obviously important but this is a nonetheless terrific news. It goes without saying that the United Nations and George Clooney deserve much of the credit for this.
Update: WaPo’s Glenn Kessler puts this into perspective:
As many as 450,000 people have died from the fighting or disease and malnutrition during the conflict, which broke out in early 2003 when two African rebel groups attacked police stations and military outposts. The United Nations and human rights groups accuse the Arab-led central government of supporting militiamen, called the Janjaweed, to crush the rebellion. About 2,000 villages have been destroyed in Darfur, which is an area the size of France.
U.S. officials believe an accord is essential in order to convince Khartoum to accept a United Nations peacekeeping force that would include logistical assistance from NATO. The African Union currently has a 7,000-person force with a limited mandate that many experts say has been ineffective at stopping the fighting.
The Sudanese government and the rebel groups have broken many agreements with each other during two years of peace negotiations. But U.S. officials believe reaching an agreement with the largest group, headed by Minii Minnawi, is key to achieving a lasting accord.
Scott Koenig is skeptical as well:
Don’t believe a word of it. The war in Darfur is a clash of religions, races, and cultures that isn’t going to end just because some people signed a piece of paper in Khartoum.
The Arab (Islamic) Janjaweed militias will continue to conduct massacres of Black (Christian and Animist) villages in the Darfur region, in an ongoing effort to “Arabize” Africa’s largest nation. We can call it “ethnic cleansing,” or “genocide,” but the net result is the same. This is jihad, and our old friends al Qaeda are involved. There will be no peace in the region until all the blacks are driven into neighboring Chad, or they take up arms and push back hard against the Janjaweed.
I agree that pieces of paper are useless in stopping violence. Sometimes, though, their signing is an indication that people actually want to stop killing one another. We’ll soon find out how serious the government is and/or how much control they have over the Janjaweed.