Khartoum, Asharq Al-Awsat- A disagreement emerged in the Qatari capital, Doha, between the Sudanese Government and the armed Justice and Equality Movement [JEM], which is based in the Darfur Province, over ways to exchange prisoners between the two sides in implementation of the goodwill agreement that the two parties signed in February through Qatari, UN, and African mediation.
The Sudanese Government absolutely refuses to release any of the JEM detainees before signing a cease-fire agreement. Observers describe the goodwill agreement between the two parties as fragile and loose because it does not include timetables on the points of agreement.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat by telephone, Dr Amin Hassan Omar, head of the Sudanese Government’s delegation to the Doha negotiations, said the government will not release the JEM prisoners before signing a cease-fire agreement between the two sides.
He added that Qatar presented to the two sides a compromise proposal on how to release the prisoners.
The JEM insists that it will not talk about further steps to negotiate unless the goodwill agreement between the two parties is implemented. The agreement calls for the release of prisoners in consultation with the mediators.
Dr Omar said the government delegation is currently studying the proposal and will respond to it. He added: “In any case, our stand is that a number of prisoners will be released after signing a cease-fire agreement, and another group will be released as negotiations begin between the two sides on the key issue in order to resolve the problem. Afterward, the prisoners will be released in stages until all of them have been released with the signing of a final agreement between the two sides.”
Commenting on the JEM’s condition not to hold direct negotiations with the government’s delegation in Doha at this stage, Omar said: “This is their own business. As far as we are concerned, however, we have no objection to direct negotiations with them or to negotiations through the mediator. But what is important is for the negotiations on the discussed issues to continue moving forward.” He added: “We are currently looking into the mediators’ proposals on the release of prisoners.”
Asked on the effect of the ongoing war in Chad between the forces of President Idriss Deby and the Chadian opposition alliance on the Doha negotiations, Omar said Chad is aware of what is actually happening in its territories. He added that the accusations that are leveled by Chad are intended for useless media consumption. He Noted: “This also applies to the accusations that are leveled by the JEM. They are intended only for media consumption.”
Omar pointed out that Sudan currently wants to negotiate with its opponents, while the Chadian Government refuses to sit with any opponent and insists on dealing with them by force. Accordingly, he added, what is happening in Chad is only natural, and it is a Chadian affair.
For his part, Suleiman Jamus, secretary of humanitarian affairs in the JEM and member of the movement’s delegation to the Doha negotiations, said: “The movement will not continue negotiations with the government. Also, it will not sign any document on a new agreement unless the provisions of the confidence-building document, which was signed between the two parties in the first round of the Doha talks in February, are implemented.”
Jamus said the movement’s delegation came to Doha to activate the previous agreements. Noting that the current negotiations are indirect, he said they are run by mediators.
On a separate issue, the Sudanese National Congress Party, the largest partner in the country’s government, violently responded to its partner in the government, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement [SPLM], over the movement’s rejection of the results of the population census.
Professor Ibrahim Ghandur, chairman of the National Congress Party’s elections committee, said in press statements that the SPLM does not want elections to be held. He accused the SPLM of placing obstacles to the democratic transition and noted that it looks for excuses to prevent elections from taking place.
He said the SPLM wants the outcome of the census to satisfy the hopes of some of its leaders, disregarding the situation on the ground. He emphasized that the SPLM would not object to the use of the census results to achieve any goals, except power sharing.
Noting that the SPLM seeks to enjoy privileges that are not based on facts, Ghandur said: “I am surprised by the statement, which SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum made.”
Ghandur said Amum’s statement shows that some of the SPLM leaders do not distinguish between their status as the second largest party in the national unity government in which they hold government positions, including the presidential institution, and their status as an opposition party.
Earlier, the SPLM, through its secretary general, Pagan Amum, rejected the results of the population census and cast doubt on their credibility.