Sudan, rebels disagree on food aid, ceasefire

Saturday August 20 2016

Supporters of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party at a campaign rally on February 24, 2015. President Omar al Bashir’s quest for national political dialogue is aimed at accommodating rebels and constitutional reforms to open up the political space. PHOTO | FILE

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir is battling Islamic hardliners within his National Congress Party (NCP), who both oppose the negotiations with the rebels in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, and blame him for the breaking away of South Sudan in 2011.

Bashir’s quest for a national political dialogue — aimed at accommodating rebels and starting constitutional reforms to open up political space — has produced mixed results as two rebel groups accepted a roadmap for future talks, but declined a ceasefire deal.

The negotiations, which took place in Addis Ababa from August  9-14 under the mediation of the African Union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP) led by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, collapsed after the government declined the request by the rebels to allow food aid from neighbouring countries, saying that would undermine Sudan’s sovereignty.

Sudan People’s Liberation Movement–North (SPLM-N) spokesperson Mubarak Ardol accused Khartoum of using humanitarian aid as a tool of political pressure even though the rebels had offered significant concessions. Khartoum refused to allow humanitarian aid from countries like Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan.

However, government lead negotiator Ibrahim Mahmoud said the talks failed because the armed movements failed to reach a ceasefire agreement.

On August 8, four groups from the opposition umbrella —SPLM-N, the Darfurian rebels Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM-MM) led by Minni Minnawi and the main opposition party, the National Umma Party (NUP) — signed a roadmap for peace and dialogue.


The roadmap outlines a process for reaching a permanent ceasefire and provides for a national dialogue between the government and both political and armed opposition groups. It also included provisions for immediate humanitarian assistance.

The AU panel has blamed the rebels for the failure of the talks.

“Although the facilitators presented balanced options, including on the sites where the armed movements would be located, and mechanisms for the monitoring of humanitarian assistance, JEM SLM-MM rejected the proposals,’’ AUHIP said in a statement after the talks collapsed.

In the face of this impasse, the panel proposed that the government and the SPLM-N entrust the provision of humanitarian assistance to the United Nations, which should also determine the most efficient and cost-effective way to meet humanitarian needs.

However, Mr Minnawi said that the talks failed because the government refused to stop tracking rebel forces via GPS or to release detainees in exchange for war hostages.

SPLM-N rebels have been fighting the Sudanese army in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile since 2011. These are militias who fought alongside SPLA against Khartoum but were left in the North when South Sudan seceded in 2011.

The 2005  Sudanese Comprehensive Peace Agreement provided that the people of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile hold popular consultations  to determine whether to stay in a centralised government under Khartoum or go for federal system with limited autonomy.

JEM on the other hand took up arms in 2003 when mainly non-Arab agriculturalists revolted against Khartoum due to years of marginalisation. The government responded by hiring the Janjaweed Arab militias who have been accused of committing atrocities in Darfur.