Chad brokers peace with Sudan over Darfur in Qatar

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The government of Chad has succeeded in brokering a peace treaty between Darfur’s main rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), and the Khartoum government of northern Sudan.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has signed a cease-fire deal with JEM’s rebel leader, Khalil Ibrahim that would offer Darfur’s most powerful rebel group government posts as part of a future peace plan to end fighting in western Sudan.

The power-sharing agreement took place in Qatar, and analysts have described it as a major step towards peace in the region. In addition to the immediate ceasefire, the Doha accord includes an outline deal on the sharing of power at all levels, which means the rebels will be offered seats in the Khartoum government.

JEM’s rebel leader, Khalil Ibrahim, said the framework agreement was a very important step, but the road to peace still needs much patience and honest concessions from both sides. Shortly after signing the deal, the group confirmed it would be observing a ceasefire from midnight.

After the deal was signed, Qatar said a $1.5billion account would be established for the development of Darfur. The UK’s Africa minister, Glenys Kinnock, hailed the ceasefire and power-sharing agreement, while urging all sides involved in intensifying their efforts for peace.

According to the text of the accord, revealed by Reuters, the rebel group will constitute a political party after the signing of a final agreement, and changes in the administration of the Darfur region will form part of the final accord and that death sentences imposed on 100 JEM fighters will be cancelled.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s press office issued a statement welcoming the deal, saying it was “an important step towards an inclusive and comprehensive peace agreement for Darfur, which will address the underlying causes of the conflict and the concerns of all Darfurian communities.”

However JEM has played down the chances of reaching a final peace pact by March 15, as outlined in the Doha accord saying they “are working to meet the March 15 deadline, but that in itself is not a requirement.”

“We are trying to move forward, at least. It has been a long time since we’ve had a direct dialogue (with the government). We believe it is the right time to start,” the chief JEM negotiator Ahmed Tugud, one of those who later signed the agreement, told reporters in Doha.

Analysts say this framework agreement will be a tremendous relief for President Omar al-Bashir who is being sought by the International Criminal Court (ICC) since last year for war crimes in Darfur. Mr. Bashir was able to travel to Qatar without being arrested because the country has not signed the ICC charter, which obliges member states to arrest indictees on their territory.

In 2008, the Darfur rebel group took its fight to the heart of the country, where government reports said more than 200 people were killed an attack. The UN estimated that about 300,000 people died in the worst years of the Darfuri conflict. Some 2.5 million people are still displaced.

More than 100 JEM fighters were sentenced to death by hanging for their involvement in the attack.

The initial version of the accord’s framework peace deal was inked in Chad.

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