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Published:February 19th, 2009 11:14 EST
Darfur`s Most Powerful Rebel Group Accedes to Peace Negotiations

Darfur`s Most Powerful Rebel Group Accedes to Peace Negotiations

By Christopher HIllenbrand

Since 2003, Darfur, the barren desert region of western Sudan, has seen an excess of 300,000 Sudanese slaughtered in the ensuing conflict between militant rebels and the Sudan government. Casualties of the war aren`t merely counted among the dead: at least 2.7 million have been evacuated from their homes as a result of the 6-year military assaults.


The fact many nations, including the United States, disavowed the urgency to aid in stopping the carnage has only worsened the situation in the world community. Rebel factions haven`t yet received the civil rights and liberties they`ve fought for under Sudan`s Arabic-dominant theocratic regime but have left a tidal wave of genocide and annihilation in their wake.


On Tuesday, the Rebels met with officials from the Sudanese government in the Middle-Eastern country of Qatar to discuss bringing an end to the ongoing war. Both parties signed an edict to engage in future peace negotiations, though no case-fire agreement was agreed upon. During their talks, respective leaders of both groups swore to exchange POWs in the near future as a sign of amity.


The closest time Sudan ever got close to halting the bloodshed was back in 2006 when they signed a peace treaty with 1 of the rebel coalitions. That group eventually splintered into several smaller rebel cells, thereby negating the treaty and the country`s progress toward peaceful diplomacy.   


The Sudan government had been close to complete collapse recently as the rebel groups` persistent surges against many of the country`s largest cities and towns nearly succeeded. The Justice and Equality Movement, Sudan` most formidable rebel group, participated in peace discussions for the first time. They were responsible for an attack on the periphery of Khartoum, Sudan`s capital, which would`ve besieged government houses had the group prevailed.


According to Khalil Ibrahim, head of the Justice and Equality Movement: I would like to emphasize that the (coming) negotiations will be comprehensive and will target the core of the problem. God willing, there is a genuine desire to reach a comprehensive and just solution to this war and to prevent he outbreak of anther war.


Once the conference concluded, experts measured the implications of the signed declaration in the future. After watching the proceedings on Tuesday from London, a researcher covering the Darfur conflict in Sudan at Amnesty International iterated on the agreement`s sweeping effects. What`s significant about it is that less than a year ago the Justice and Equality Movement was attacking Khartoum and on both sides of the conflict there was no political commitment whatsoever to speak even. 


This tryst was the first time since 2007 that both parties of interest congregated to stop the massive destruction and injustices in the country. In summary, the text of the pact underlines that both sides (Sudan and all rebel groups involved) will strive towards a mutually compromised POW exchange and cease-fire, once a timetable is predetermined with the help from Qatari arbitrators and emissaries from the U.N. and the African Union. In addition to the declaration signed, a three-month deadline was put in place for both halves to conclude their peace talks during the peace convention. 


The conference laid an inroad to further talks scheduled in 2 weeks in Doha, to address resolving problems including religious discrimination which originally provoked the groups to begin insurrecting.


The Qatari Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani had been the linchpin in uniting both sides during the agreements on Tuesday. The country`s leader was also instrumental in planning the next meeting in Doha, Qatar.