The latest round of public hearings examining the origins of the ongoing conflict in Darfur, which erupted in 2003 and has led to over 300,000 deaths, wrapped up today, a United Nations spokesperson told reporters in New York.
Michele Montas said that the high-level African Union Panel on Darfur (AUPD) enquiries, chaired by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, are aimed at advancing the peace process between the Government and various rebel forces in the western Sudanese region.
Over the past 10 days, the AUPD has listened to Sudanese political parties, civil society representatives, rebel movements, Arab nomads, native administrators, tribal leaders, internally displaced persons (IDPs), women, youth, and others in Khartoum and across Darfur, as part of its third such session.
The Panel is slated to conduct several additional hearings and consultations into the armed struggle – setting Government forces and their allied Janjaweed militiamen against various rebels groups and forcing 2.7 million people from their homes – before drafting recommendations to be presented to the AU and making them available to the public.
Meanwhile, AU-UN Joint Chief Mediator for Darfur Djibril Bassolé paid a one-day visit to the North Darfur capital of El Fasher on Thursday, where he held a meeting with Acting Joint Special Representative, Henry Anyidoho, and other senior officials.
During the meeting, Mr. Bassolé briefed on the steps taken as well as progress made regarding the peace process, and the outcome of the Doha talks between the Government of Sudan and the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).
Last week, Ms. Montas said that the ceasefire negotiations had been suspended, but were expected to restart at the end of July. The hold up involves the timing of the release of prisoners, with the JEM calling for their freedom before an agreement on the cessation of hostilities is reached.
On this trip, Mr. Bassolé also met with local officials, both native Darfuri and Arab, in an effort to expand mediation efforts and explore options for a way forward, said Ms. Montas.