The Sudanese Government today released eight rebel detainees to the newly-deployed United Nations-African Union (AU) hybrid peacekeeping force, known as UNAMID, which is seeking to bring peace to the war-ravaged Darfur region.
The eight members of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) were released in El Fasher in North Darfur, into the custody of UNAMID Force Commander General Martin Luther Agwai in his capacity as Chairman of the Ceasefire Commission (CFC).
“This is evidence of a change of heart by the Government, and I hope that it is the beginning of a new way of doing things in Darfur,” said General Mohammed Bashir of JEM, calling today’s release “a new way to settle differences and a new beginning for all parties, who should now understand that there is no military solution to the conflict in Darfur.”
The release of the detainees was witnessed by Rodolphe Adada, who serves as the head of the mission and also as UN/AU Joint Special Representative.
Both General Agwai and Mr. Adada worked closely with the Government to secure the release of the JEM members into UNAMID custody.
According to Sudanese officials, the eight were arrested for passing on information regarding Government troop movements to JEM. Six of them were JEM representatives to the CFC and were arrested on 29 December in El Fasher. One person was arrested earlier in Kulbus, and another belonged to the JEM Collective Leadership Faction and was detained several days ago in El Fasher.
During the handover, General Agwai and Sudanese Major-General Imad Ad Diin Mustafa Adawi noted the good relationship that exists between UNAMID and the Government, but emphasized the importance of bolstering their cooperation.
Major-General Adawi stressed that the Government’s release of the JEM members should be viewed as a gesture of goodwill, urging that Government soldiers captured in West Darfur should be let go in return.
For his part, Mr. Adada pledged to help in any way possible to assist in the release of these Sudanese forces.
In a related development, negotiations for the so-called Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) for UNAMID continued in Khartoum today between senior UN and Government officials.
According to the mission, the talks on the Agreement have been proceeding smoothly and constructively since they began earlier this week.
Also today, the UN and AU Special Envoys for Darfur, Jan Eliasson and Salim Ahmed Salim, completed a three-day visit to Darfur with a meeting with representatives of Abdul Wahid’s faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA). They travel onward to Juba tomorrow.