The head of the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur has welcomed the agreement signed today between the Sudanese Government and the rebel Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), calling it a “significant step forward” in efforts to resolve the conflict.
The protocol agreement signed in the Qatari capital, Doha, indicates a commitment on the part of the Government and the LJM to the draft document that will form the basis of a permanent ceasefire and a comprehensive peace agreement to end the fighting that began eight years ago.
“We are gathered here to witness and extend support to the building of a strong foundation for an inclusive and comprehensive resolution to the conflict,” Ibrahim Gambari, the head of the UN-AU mission (UNAMID), told the gathering.
Mr. Gambari, who is the acting Joint Chief Mediator, urged the other armed movements of Darfur to sign up to the draft document, according to a news release issued by UNAMID. He also said that the mission was ready to prepare the ground for an internal political dialogue to involve the people of Darfur in any peace agreement achieved.
“The challenge remains to determine how best to engage and persuade ‘hold-out’ groups that a military solution to the Darfur conflict is not the way to go, while encouraging them to make every effort to participate in a comprehensive peace agreement as soon as possible,” he stated.
The gathering in Doha brought together several African heads of State, officials from the AU, League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, as well as representatives of Darfur’s civil society.
An estimated 300,000 people have been killed since the conflict between rebels, Government forces and allied militiamen erupted in Darfur in 2003 and about 2.7 million others have had to flee their homes. Both sides have been accused of numerous human rights abuses.