UN and AU envoys hold more meetings with Darfur rebels to spur peace process

UN and AU envoys hold more meetings with Darfur rebels to spur peace process

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United Nations and African Union mediators involved in the Darfur peace process are holding meetings today in southern Sudan in a bid to spur some of the war-torn region’s splintering rebel movements to unify their positions ahead of direct negotiations with the Sudanese Government scheduled for next month.

The UN’s Tayé-Brook Zerihoun and the AU’s Sam Ibok, the Chief Mediators for the Darfur peace process, are meeting rebel groups that have been engaged in the peace process under the aegis of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters.

After today’s meeting in the southern Sudanese town of Juba, the two envoys will then travel to Darfur for a two-day visit starting on Wednesday in which they will hold meetings with other rebel movements that did not attend last month’s first round of peace talks in Sirte, Libya.

Many of Darfur’s rebel groups, which have fragmented recently from three major groups into 16 or more separate factions, did not attend the Sirte talks that were designed to be the first step of a three-phase process to end the conflict.

Since then the envoys, as well as other UN and AU officials, have been conducting meetings and consultations with the rebel groups in an attempt to find common ground ahead of the scheduled direct negotiations with Khartoum.

More than 200,000 people have been killed since 2003 and another 2.2 million have been made homeless because of the fighting in Darfur between rebels, Government forces and allied militia known as the Janjaweed. A hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping mission known as UNAMID is slated to deploy at the start of next year to quell the widespread violence and humanitarian suffering.