Khartoum, Asharq Al-Awsat- After several months spent among his forces in Darfur protesting the non-implementation of the peace agreement he signed with the Sudanese Government, Mani Arkoi Minawi, [former rebel leader], senior assistant to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, returned to Khartoum to participate in the work of the Sudanese People’s Conference.
Minawi told Asharq Al-Awsat that he is still angry because of the delay in implementing the peace agreement he signed with the Sudanese president in Abuja in 2005. He said: “Because we are peace loving, we shall direct all our efforts so as to emerge from the conference with a positive result,” pointing out that there is a package of initiatives proposed for solving the issue of Darfur. Minawi’s replies during the interview with Asharq Al-Awsat were brief, with ‘a wait and see’ approach to what emerges at the conference. “If we do nothing with these initiatives,” he says, “Sudan will continue to revolve in a vacuum; the people of Darfur will remain in the open, without shelter, without development aid; and the other [the government] will exploit the situation to strengthen its grip on Sudan.” Minawi focused all his concern on the will to find a solution, the arrival of humanitarian assistance to the victims and implementation of regeneration projects.
The following is the full text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is the present security, humanitarian, economic and political situation in Darfur like?
[Minawi] The security situation is somewhat more stable than it was before. The humanitarian situation is still the same, but very difficult. The number of refugees in camps is huge. Relief work has stopped. There is no improvement in agriculture and farming, because the security problems hinder cultivation and cattle grazing. The situation needs an overhaul and the security situation needs to be brought under control, as well as the humanitarian situation.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Who is causing this situation in Darfur, the rebel movements and armed groups, or the government?
[Minawi] All the parties have contributed to the instability of the situation and every party has its own reasons.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Where did the money allocated to the development of Darfur go, especially, Arab and Islamic contributions?
[Minawi] We have not received any resources from the Arab Development Fund and the results of development and humanitarian meetings were not translated into action in Darfur.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are we going to see an Arab movement in support of development in Darfur in the coming weeks?
[Minawi] I do not know.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you have any development projects in Darfur to be financed by the Arab Development Fund?
[Minawi] The Transitional Darfur Regional Authority submitted a number of projects to the Arab Fund and the central government in Sudan, but up until this moment we have not heard anything. We hope to have a response or see some progress in the future.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] You met with the Arab League secretary general, have you agreed anything with him?
[Minawi] Amr Musa emphasized the Arab League’s commitment to persuade the Arab states to deposit the agreed sums of money in regeneration funds; especially as sustainable development in Darfur contributes toward solving the roots of the problem.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are you going to play a role between the armed groups and the government in preparation for reconciliation?
[Minawi] Why not; I will do that when the political will for a solution is there. But let me ask is there a political will for a solution?
[Asharq Al-Awsat] There is the Afro-Arab initiative?
[Minawi] We shall see what the solution is going to be. Let us wait. In the past we reverted to the Abuja peace agreement, as it is the basis for the solution. We agreed on compensation for people who suffered damage and the return of refugees to their villages, but there were difficulties in implementing the agreement. These difficulties caused problems with the central government over the past months and that made me return to Darfur. I have returned to Khartoum to participate in the Sudanese People’s Conference. We shall continue to be patient because we are peace loving. We shall work with the people who reject peace to persuade them to negotiate with the government. But we need to implement what we agree on, in order to consolidate the foundations of the comprehensive and just peace; not just meetings to declare peaceful intentions. Peace requires work and firm commitment.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your assessment of the Afro-Arab initiative and the Sudanese People’s Conference’ initiative?
[Minawi] If there are good intentions, we will succeed. I have announced my approval of the initiative and welcomed it. I also declared my support for any initiative that aims to solve the crisis in Sudan. I regard the initiative as an opportunity for dialogue, but we need the will to solve the problem.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your view of the chances of peace and security in Darfur?
[Minawi] We cross bridges when we come to them. Now, we are still on dry land; we have not yet crossed any bridges.