After delays that threatened to set back the Darfur peace process in latter half of 2011, the first weeks of 2012 brought a rush of activity in support of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, signed by the Government of Sudan and the Liberation and Justice Movement.
“Darfur is closer to comprehensive peace today than it has ever been before,” Joint Special Representative Ibrahim Gambari told staff assembled for the year’s first town hall meeting on 18 January.
The establishment of the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) including the appointment of members of its Executive Organ, was announced by the Government of Sudan on 27 December, and the DRA held its inaugural meeting under the guidance of its Chairperson, Eltigani Seisi, the leader of the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) on 14 January in Khartoum. The DRA was to be officially launched in Darfur on 6 February.
The Darfur Regional Authority has the primary responsibility for coordinating the implementation of the DDPD stipulations as well as all post-conflict development activities and projects.
Its 12-member Executive Organ includes the governors of the now-five states of Darfur, 10 ministers, four commissioners and the chair of a Darfur Reconstruction and Development Fund. The members, appointed by the President of Sudan upon nomination by the DRA chairperson, have the status of State Minister: five of them are members of the LJM.
The DRA has set up two operational teams—one to handle budgetary issues and another to complete the DRA headquarters—a large steel-frame complex now under construction in El Fasher--and to establish its presence elsewhere in Darfur.
On 10 January 2012, President Al-Bashir issued decrees appointing and removing Walis (Governors) to Darfur’s five states, including the newly created states. This is in accordance with Article 12 of the Doha Document for Peace (DDPD), where the Parties agreed that movements will be represented at all levels of the Darfur state governments. Zalingei, which is home to many of the Fur ethnic group, is the capital of the new Central Darfur State. And El Daein, which is home to several Arab tribes, is the capital of the new East Darfur State.
The African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has provided technical and logistical support to the peace process and currently chairs the Ceasefire Commission set up by the DDPD, which has been meeting periodically in El Fasher. UNAMID was also to oversee the verification of forces exercise which was to precede other ceasefire and final security arrangements set out by the Doha document.
The peacekeeping mission has also been working across Darfur with local authorities and civil society organizations to launch nearly 100 public workshops in order to explain and disseminate the peace document to the public. The DDPD dissemination began on 18 January in El Fasher and Mellit, North Darfur. Other sectors are currently in discussion with local authorities and planned to begin workshops soon in their respective areas.
Representatives of the Government of Sudan and the LJM—as well as the leadership of the new Darfur Regional Authority--gathered with international envoys in the second meeting of the Implementation Follow–up Commission at UNAMID headquarters on 16 January and declared their support for the DDPD process thus far.
“As provided for in the agreement, this forum is tasked with overseeing the implementation of the DDPD through monitoring, through assessing and through providing assistance in mobilizing resources for its implementation. We must strengthen this mechanism,” said JSR Gambari in opening the 16 January meeting.
Two days later he told staff, “It was a historic moment to have six months after the signing of the DDPD, the parties and the international community discussing implementation of the peace agreement here in Darfur with UNAMID as host.”
The Commission, which held its inaugural meeting in Doha in September, is chaired by the State of Qatar and includes the Government of Sudan, LJM, representatives of Burkina Faso, Canada, Chad, China, Egypt, France, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, United States, African Union, European Union, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and UNAMID.
The Government also announced the establishment of a National Commission for Human Rights which in turn should set up human rights committees in Darfur’s five states. Also as called for by the Doha Document, a Special Court for Darfur has been established and will focus on gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Darfur since February 2003.However, progress has been limited on other provisions in the DDPD such as wealth-sharing and the return of and compensation to internally displaced persons and refugees. And JSR Gambari reported to the IFC that delays, particularly in setting up the DRA, “could have a negative effect in consolidating the peace at the grassroots level.”
In addition, criminality and volatility involving the hold-out movements continued to threaten the overall implementation of the peace plan, as well as the peacekeepers’ ability to fully support the peace process throughout Darfur.
However, the security situation, which was tense around the 24 December 2011 killing of JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim in North Kordofan, was unusually quiet in January when violence largely abated.
The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Herve Ladsous, protested to the Security Council on 11 January 2012 that restrictions on UNAMID were hindering the mission’s ability to monitor and protect civilians. The importance of access was stressed at the 16 January IFC meeting in El Fasher, when for the first time in nearly a year, international media were authorized to visit Darfur in order to cover the event.
All speakers at the IFC continued to exhort the non-signatory movements to join the evolving peace plan.
“This agreement will not be implemented unless the fighting is completely stopped,” said Commission chair, Qatar Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Bin Abdullah A’al-Mahmood.
Mr. Al Mahmoud noted the importance now of development efforts in Darfur, and he announced a major donors conference to be held soon in Doha to raise funds to implement the DDPD.