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How serious is Sudan’s Darfur ceasefire?

November 12, 2008

Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was in a jubilant mood when he announced to crowds of supporters that he was declaring a ceasefire in Darfur.

From his body language, you might have thought he had already ended the crisis and achieved his goal of avoiding a possible indictment by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

In the build-up to his speech, supporters surged to the front of the crowd waving sticks and punching the air with their fists to show their support for the army officer who came to power in Sudan in a coup in 1989. There was almost a party atmosphere.

Tanzania’s foreign minister Bernard Kamillius Membe was greeted with cheers as he announced that Sudan had shown that African countries could look after their own crises.

“The International Criminal Court is an irrelevance,” said the Tanzanian minister. “You are masters of your own destiny. Africa does not need outsiders to resolve its conflicts.”

But after the celebrations were over, serious questions remained as to what impact the ceasefire and other new measures would have on the festering Darfur conflict and the ICC prosecutor’s hope of putting Bashir on trial.

Diplomats quickly spotted loopholes in the text of Bashir’s speech.

Bashir promised an “unconditional” ceasefire in Darfur but in the same sentence added that it would come into force “provided an effective monitoring mechanism be put into action and observed by all involved parties.”

That amounted to “a pretty big caveat” given the difficulty of establishing ceasefire mechanisms in Darfur in the past, one diplomat told me, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Analysts also questioned why Bashir had not announced any freeing of political prisoners from Darfur, another of the recommendations of the government-backed forum that came up with the proposal to call a ceasefire.

Even some officials appeared sceptical.

“Peace in Darfur will not come until the two sides sit down together and agree the issue,” said one, who declined to be named.

Past ceasefires in Darfur have come and gone bringing little change for the estimated 2.5 million Darfuris driven from their homes by more than five years of fighting.

Will this one be any different, particularly since Darfur rebel groups have said they will continue to fight and have dismissed Bashir’s ceasefire as a public relations sham? What difference could it make in a region increasingly at the prey of bandits? Could it be enough to convince sceptical Western countries to agree to postpone any indictment of Bashir?


“Peace in Darfur will not come until the two sides sit down together and agree the issue,” said one source.

There aren’t only two sides in the Darfur conflict. There are many rebel groups, the government and its proxies, Arab rebel groups…

Saying that there are only two sides is oversimplifying a very complex conflict.

This ceasefire will probably not work. There cannot be peace in Darfur if the rebels are not involved in the talks, and this time they ignored the talks.


As is the case across the border in Kenya; — it appears to me that President Bashir’s more interested in grandiose acts as opposed to the nitty-gritty details of establishing a lasting peace in Darfur.

The text of the speech alone has glaring errors; — the establishment of the said ceasefire observation mechanism seems highly unlikely given the animosity which exists between the warring parties.

If there’s no trust to build on, or a mutual threat that can be leverage to bring the feuding parties to the table; — this is just another PR stunt, nothing more.

As for the Tanzanian Minister’s statement; — its deeply flawed. Ys, Africa has the potential to sort out its own problems. More often than not though; — we’re too lazy to do it ourselves, and we fall back into anachronistic patterns, like railing against ‘the Imperial West’ to cover our own lack of initiative.

Posted by Ramah Nyang | Report as abusive

I do know how serious it is there in Sudan’s Darfur. I saw a picture before. The picture depicted a very skinny child, already tired. As I envisioned it, she tried to at least crawl towards her destination but due to her situation-hungry situation, she could not reach where she wanted to be but instead, she fell with her forehead touching the ground, her feet bent in a way that her knees are touching her abdomen. Behind her is a vulture, waiting to come and feast one her… That was truly a horrible sight, and I wondered why the journalist even bothered to take the picture. This would not have happened if the war did not start or at least there was no conflict in the first place. I tried to support the cause of Emma Academy Project, they will be building a school in Sudan where children will be away from the war. I really wished that I could have saved the child but I now know how to prevent such a horrible sight.

Posted by Mandino | Report as abusive

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