Saying they hoped African leaders could solve without sanctions what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the leaders of Egypt, Chad, Nigeria and Libya discussed the crisis in Sudan’s Darfur region with the Sudanese president.
The “mini-summit” in Libya began late yesterday after the five leaders broke their day-long fast together for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and headed into a well-guarded downtown hotel.
One topic reportedly was a proposal that Egypt, Libya, Nigeria and Chad create a committee to mediate between the Khartoum government and the rebels in Darfur.
Heading into the summit, the spokesman for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said it was intended to prove that African leaders can solve their own problems - apparently a jab at efforts in the UN to force Sudan to end the fighting.
Sudan faces the threat of UN sanctions as the UN Security Council investigates allegations levelled by the US and some humanitarian groups that the government and allied Arab militia in Darfur are guilty of genocide.
The conflict in Darfur has grown since February 2003, when two rebel groups took up arms against the government. It has since mushroomed into a counterinsurgency in which pro-government Arab militiamen have raped and killed non-Arab African villagers.
Nearly 1.5 million people have left their villages to flee the violence, and tens of thousands of people have died. Some of the refugees have crossed into neighbouring Chad, where conditions are dire.
“We are all here to try to reach a peaceful solution to end this problem. We are all concerned to find a solution which will not only solve the security and the political problem, but also the humanitarian problem,” said Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel Rahman Shalqam.
The five countries’ foreign ministers held a meeting earlier in the day, but released no details of their talks.
A delegation of the smaller of Darfur’s two rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement, travelled to Tripoli but was not allowed to participate in the summit.
The group’s leader, Khalil Ibrahim, called on the leaders to persuade Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir to find a peaceful resolution, and predicted more bloodshed if a resolution is not found.