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Interview: Darfur Mediator say time for dialogue process has not yet come

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April 14, 2011 (KHARTOUM) — The Joint Peace Mediator Djibril Bassolé said he was surprised by the unusual criticism directed against him by an African Union body. He further reaffirmed that the necessary conditions for a dialogue among Darfurians are not yet met.

JMC Djibril Basolé talking in a press conference held in Paris on 1 March 2011 (ST) In a statement released last week the African Union Peace and security Council (AUPSC) strongly supported a plan to end Darfur conflict through dialogue among Darfur tribal and civil society forces.

The Council also accused Bassolé of ignoring its directives to coordinate his action in Doha with the head of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) for Sudan, Thabo Mbeki.

In a telephone interview with the Sudan Tribune, Bassole regretted he had not been invited to update the meeting with the latest developments in the peace progress. He further said welcoming positive criticism that can help in his efforts to broker a peace deal.

"I am somewhat surprised by the form and substance of the criticism expressed in the press statement issued by African Union Peace and Security Council, an institution for which I have a lot of consideration," he said.

"If I had been invited to the AUPSC meeting, I could brief the Board on the progress of the Doha talks," he further added.

"When peace talks are stalled, it is usually the Mediator will be subject to any kind of criticism. I must accept and take into account those criticisms that are useful and constructive," pointed out the Joint Chief Mediator.

The Council agreed in its meeting of on 8 April 2011 that the Darfur Political Process (DPP) of the AUHIP should begin on 1 May and urged the hybrid peacekeeping operation in Darfur UNAMID to undertake the necessary preparations for this conference.

However the meeting stressed that the DPP should proceed "in a manner concurrent with and complementary to the Doha Talks".

Despite the endorsement of four chapters in Doha, the government and rebel groups failed to agree over the issue of Darfur administrative status. Khartoum refuses the idea of establishing a regional authority to administrate the three states of the western Sudan region as demanded by the armed groups.

The Sudanese government further went to announce the organization of a referendum on the disputed issue; and ignored rebels’ demand to stop this vote because it breaches the framework agreements signed with them and reinforces the distrust between the parties.

Bassolé said he agreed on the need for a dialogue between all the social and political forces in the restive region in order to "strengthen civil peace and promote social reconciliation".

He however stressed that "a successful and effective" consultation implies to prepare the necessary ground in a manner to ensure the support of all the stakeholders to the process including the rebel groups.

"Personally as an African I would recommend to the former heads of states who are members of the (AU high level) panel to conduct a dialogue process that will get the acquiescence of all Darfurians and that will not be rejected or fought by those who are not part of it for the moment", he said.

"The complexity of the crisis in Darfur requires a consensual approach, slow by nature," he cautioned.

Backed by the Sudanese government, the DDP is rejected by the rebel groups and seen by the international community as a new obstacle hampering the ongoing efforts to end the eight year conflict in Darfur.

Darfur movements describe the head of the Panel Thabo Mbeki as supporter of the government of the president Omer Al-Bashir since the time he was president of South Africa. In 2007 when they rejected to take part in a process sponsored by the Libyan government the president Mbeki jointly with his Sudanese counterpart called for international sanctions against the rebel groups.

Western diplomats also say such process cannot take place under the rampant insecurity in Darfur where the state of emergency law and the national security law are enforced. They believe such operation would gather only the supporters of the ruling party besides leading to the collapse of the Doha process.

The mediation prepares for a general conference to be attended by all the stakeholders in the region including representatives of the internally displaced people, tribal leaders, civil society groups, rebel groups and the government.

The gathering should debate on the pending issues in order to reach a consensus allowing the mediation to propose the final peace agreement to be submitted for signing by the parties.

(ST)