Sudan: Unconditional cease-fire proposal questionable

News and Press Release
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By Akwei Thompson

Washington, DC, 15 November 2008 - Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir this week announced an immediate ceasefire in the Darfur region of western Sudan, including the disarming of pro-government militia.

Mr. Bashir is facing a possible war-crimes indictment by the International Criminal Court and this has prompted many to say that the proposal is an attempt aimed at persuading the ICG not to pursue the indictment, as it could jeopardize any peace initiatives.

Some rebels groups have already dismissed the proposal as an empty gesture.

Fouad Hikmat is an analyst with the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG). He told VOA's Akwei Thompson the proposal is a good move.

He said "I think the call for a ceasefire was a good move by the president, and also he says that he's going to try to disarm the militias - that's also a good point. And this is seen in the context of separating the issue of justice from finding peace in Darfur."

"But the big question is, is it "implementable"? " the ICG analyst asked.

President Basher had said the ceasefire was unconditional, but the rebel group Justice and Equality Movement said it could not agree to it.

Hikmat agreed with JEM questioning whether the proposal was really unconditional.

"I think what I heard from the Justice and Equality Movement is, they say that what Bashir called an unconditional ceasefire, is unfortunately conditional," Hikmat said.

He added that "in my opinion, I think I might concur with the Justice and Equality movement, that there is a sort of "conditionality" being put with the "unconditional " ceasefire, because he (Bashir) said there has to be monitors, and those monitors need to find the whereabouts of the rebels and how many there are, where they are based and so on, and I think the condition on the ground is not conducive to something like this..."

Hikmat said it was too early to judge how the Obama government is going to handle the Darfur conflict any differently from the Bush administration.