Addis Ababa – Thabo Mbeki, Chairman of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel on Sudan (AUHIP) has pleaded with combatants not to allow the conflicts between the Sudan governments and rebels in the Darfur, Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile regions to drag on for another five years.
The former South African President, who has been mediating to end conflict in Sudan, urged armed rebel groups and the internal opposition to sign on to a Road Map Agreement to end the conflict.
He said at a press conference in Addis Ababa this week that after the independence of South Sudan in 2011 there had been hope that the conflicts in this region would be solved. But it did not happen.
“Stop shooting, so people can live their lives and return to agriculture. I’ve been mediating talks between the Sudanese government and Sudan’s People’s Liberation Movement, North (SPLM-N) which is involved in the Blue Nile and Nuba mountains conflict for five years,” he said.
After five years of failure, there was now a ray of hope, with the government of Sudan in Khartoum expressing readiness to resolve the conflict.
He was referring to Khartoum’s recent signing of a Road Map Agreement to end the various conflicts, engage in national dialogue and to ensure the populations affected get humanitarian assistance.
However, the SPLM-N, which is fighting in Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLM) led by Mini Minawi which are fighting government forces in Darfur and the main opposition party, the National Umma Party (NUM) in Khartoum have all so far refused to sign it.
Pleading with these non-signatories, Mbeki said a national dialogue to break the deadlock by not killing people was the way forward for Sudan, as the country couldn’t wait indefinitely for peace. But he added he would work to meet some of the concerns of the non-signatories.
These include the issue of whether Sudan should be a secular state or whether it should continue to apply Islamic Sharia law and whether or not power should be devolved to the regions in a more federal state.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the Nuba Mountains in Diaspora organisation urged the international community to tackle the forgotten war in their region.
Azag Zakaria Kharif, leader of the organisation, said the Nuba Mountains, home to 18 different tribes, was being subjected to aerial and land bombardments by Sudanese government forces trying to defeat the SPLM-N rebels.
“The war has caused ethnic cleansing; turning to the worse in the last decade with nearly a million dead and two million displaced,” he said, adding that his marginalised indigenous people were caught in the middle of the war, including being subjected to famine.
He also blamed SPLM-N leaders for failing to sign the Road Map agreement, unlike the central government, and for the rebels’ insensitivity to the suffering of the Nuba people.
Nuba Mountains, which borders South Sudan, had many combatants during the civil war from 1983-2003 fighting alongside the Sudan’s People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) – now the governing party of South Sudan – against the central government.
Under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in 2005 by Khartoum and the SPLA/M, South Sudan was allowed to secede in 2011, while Nuba Mountains and another rebel region Blue Nile would only be allowed to have “public consultations” about their future.
But these promised public consultations failed to materialise and so the rebels in those two regions continued the fight against Khartoum as the SPLM-N.
Kharif suggested the SPLA/M had abandoned his people in Nuba Mountains after they gained independence.
Meanwhile, a separate war is still raging in the far western region of Darfur between the government and several rebel groups which accuse the central government of neglecting and marginalising Darfur. The war, which began in 2003, has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of people to be displaced internally or into neighboring countries.
Kharif warned that if the government in Khartoum did not end the fighting it could be toppled as two former military regimes were. Sudanese President Omar Hasan Al-Bashir, a former army general, himself gained power in 1989 in one of those coups.
However, Kharif also praised the government of Sudan, which he said had followed up on Bashir’s personal commitment several years ago, by signing the road map agreement, a “compromise” document that must be signed by all to stop the bloodshed in Sudan, he said.
“There can’t be another five years of the same – that will be betraying the people of Sudan, and this document is a step in stopping the bloodshed,” Mbeki also urged.