Hope for Darfur peace talks as rebel alliance agrees to UN-backed ceasefire

ONE of the biggest remaining Darfur rebel alliances yesterday said it would respect a ceasefire and was ready to resume peace talks with Sudan’s government.

Peace talks have faltered in the past with only one of three main rebel factions — the Minnawi wing of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) — signing a deal in June 2006, and entering government.

Although commanding the largest force, the Minnawi faction of the SLA does not have the same popular support as the National Redemption Front (NRF), which has agreed to a ceasefire after talks with UN and African Union (AU) representatives.

The NRF brought together former commanders of both SLA factions, the large Justice and Equality Movement and the smaller Sudan Federal Democratic Alliance late last year.

The alliance controls much of north Darfur — where a recent pro-government offensive has been concentrated.

A reliable spokesman and commander in the alliance, Jar al-Neby said yesterday: “Once we have our commanders conference, we will attend peace negotiations.”

The announcement came after UN Darfur envoy Jan Eliasson and his African Union counterpart Salim Ahmed Salim on Wednesday met Darfur rebel commanders who had rejected the 2006 peace deal.

Rebels have in the past rejected AU mediation of any new talks because the pan-African body mediated the first peace deal, which they said was biased.

“We will now be happy with mediation from the United Nations and the AU,” said Neby after meeting Salim and Eliasson.

Divisions among Darfur’s rebel factions have been a factor in delaying peace talks with Khartoum, and a conference to try to unite their positions has twice been delayed by government bombardment.

The UN Security Council is due to meet today to discuss a proposal to deploy a mission to protect civilians in Chad, where attacks launched by pro-government forces in Darfur have displaced tens of thousands.

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