The Sudanese government and the main rebel group in Darfur have signed a ceasefire, which, it is hoped, will lead to a formal peace in the region.
The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM)’s leader, Khalil Ibrahim, signed the agreement with the government of President Omar al-Bashir in Qatar Tuesday night, following a year of negotiations, according to the Guardian newspaper. The two leaders embraced each other, then Bashir said the move was a:
Major step towards ending the war.
The fighting in Darfur, which has also been described as genocide, and for which a warrant has been issued against Bashir, began in 2003 and has caused 300,000 deaths according to UN figures. The war in Darfur is not to be confused with the long-standing war between northern and southern Sudan, which ended in 2005 and claimed the lives of some four million people.
Unfortunately, other Darfur rebel groups have not signed on to the deal, but JEM’s leader said while the development was ”very important.” He said:
We point out, however, that the road to peace still needs much patience and honest concessions from both sides.
This is not the first ceasefire agreement between the government and JEM, but this time it is hoped the JEM will be incorporated into the national army and the rebel leaders have been offered senior leadership positions.
The agreement follows an improvement in relations with Sudan’s western neighbour, Chad, which has given the rebels sanctuary in the past. It also comes ahead of Sudanese general elections in April – the first in 24 years – in which Bashir is seeking another term.
The report said JEM hoped to get further concessions from the government, including the release of Ibrahim’s half brother, Abdel Aziz Ashr, captured in a failed JEM raid against the capital, Khartoum, in 2008. The government has already cancelled the death sentences of 100 JEM rebels captured in the raid.
The International Crisis Group’s Sudan analyst, Foaud Hikmat, said:
Other rebel groups need to be brought in before peace is achieved. The majority of the people in Darfur are not represented by JEM or the government.