The Sudanese government signs a preliminary cease-fire reaty with rebels
by Katrina Caruso
The president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, signed a preliminary peace accord in Qatar on Feb. 23 for a temporary cease-fire with the Darfur rebel group The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).
Many countries, including Canada and the United States, view this signing as a positive step for the future of Sudan’s rocky internal state. However, due to its status as a temporary accordance, both sides will have to uphold their agreements; if one side does not follow the cease-fire, the treaty may fall through.
The leaders of Sudan, Qatar, Eritrea and Chad were all present for the signing of the treaty, to discuss further action in bettering the relations between the four countries and to consider the potential for JEM to be recognized as an official Sudanese political party. Ultimately, however, they gathered to realize ways in which to instill peace in Darfur and to settle the unrest.
Over 300,000 people have died or been slaughtered in the war in Darfur since 2003 as a result of combat, starvation or medical issues, with 2.7 million people have been displaced in hopes of dodging such atrocities. Seven years ago, citizens of Darfur began being “ethnically cleansed” by the Sudanese government militias, and the rebellion groups began acting out in defiance.
Sudan’s situation has only recently been labelled as a genocide by the United Nations at The Hague. With its new status and its own personal war crime charges issued by the International Criminal Court, Bashir has been pressured into ending the warfare in Darfur. The charges have incited the president to take measures in deterring conflicts in the area, what with the upcoming Sudanese presidential elections. These elections, during which Bashir is up for re-election, will be the first since 1983, when civil war broke out in Sudan.
There are many other rebel groups that have not yet signed the agreement, among them the Sudan Liberation Movement. These groups say that they have certain requests which need to be met in return for their concurrence. Nevertheless, the fact that JEM has signed the treaty is already a step in the right direction and will potentially promote other groups to sign.
“There will be a point where, if a rebel group or a movement decides not to be a part of this, they will isolate themselves,” said Scott Gration, a retired U.S. air force major general, to the Canwest News Service.
A permanent cease-fire treaty is set for March 15, at which point Darfur may take small steps to rebuild and regain stability once more.