Khartoum, Asharq Al-Awsat- The spokesman for the military wing of the Sudan Liberation Movement [SLM], led by Abdul-Wahid Muhammad Nur, told Asharq Al-Awsat that his movement is prepared to sit at the negotiating table today rather than tomorrow, “but on condition that the land that has been usurped from our kinfolk, where new settlers are currently living, while our kinfolk are in camps, is returned.” He said that the US special envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration, makes contradictory statements. Nimr Muhammad Abdul-Rahman, the spokesman for the military wing of the SLM, led by Abdul-Wahid Muhammad Nur, refuted the accusations leveled at the SLM and its leader to the effect that it does not want to enter into peace negotiations with the government. He said that the SLM and its leader are very keen on entering into negotiations for peace. He also rejected accusations that SLM leader Nur evades meeting with mediators because he does not want to come under pressure to sit at the negotiating table. Nimr said: “All these accusations are untrue and groundless.” He added that Nur recently met with US envoy Gration in Paris and put forward to him the SLM’s viewpoint of the important preliminary steps that are necessary to engage in peace negotiations.
Nimr added that in more than one meeting with Djibril Bassole, the envoy of the United Nations and of the African Union, Nur put forward the very same viewpoint. He revealed that the SLM military command met with US envoy Gration in the Murrah Mountain area in central Darfur, where Abdul-Wahid Nur’s forces are stationed, and discussed the issue of entering into negotiations with the Sudanese government. He added: “We met with Gration at the Murrah Mountain and put forward to him that same viewpoint. We also met with the AU mediator Bassole abroad, and we were rescheduled to meet with him in Darfur again,” but the security circumstances have not yet allowed us to hold a meeting.
Nimr underlined that his movement is keen on and ready for peace negotiations as an important goal that it seeks to achieve in Darfur. He however added: “The SLM will enter into negotiations only according to these priorities — improving the humanitarian and security situation in Darfur, which ensued after the expulsion of the [humanitarian] organizations, the expulsion of the settlers from the fields and gardens of our kinfolk in Darfur, and cessation of the arrest of civilians in that region.” He said: “We will not enter into negotiations while other people live in the land of our kinfolk who are now living in camps.” He emphasized that the expulsion of the [humanitarian] organizations has created a harsh humanitarian situation in Darfur, and that situation must be addressed before any talk about peace negotiations.
Nimr said that various levels of SLM officials have met with mediators and demanded that the above-mentioned issues be settled on the ground before asking us to sit at the negotiating table with the government. He added: “We will not sit at the negotiating table unless all these important issues are settled in preparation for negotiations.” He said: “We told the mediators that we must begin negotiations from step one, but they talk about beginning from step two. We will cling to our position and will not begin from step two. “He said: “Other people are now living in the land of our kinfolk; they must first leave.” He added: “Every time we meet, they want us to cede the fields and gardens of our kinfolk; how could we do that?”
Nimr criticized scathingly the mediators, focusing his criticism on the US envoy, Gration. He said that every time the SLM meets with the mediators, it makes clear to them its point of view on how to begin the negotiations. However, they do not respond to us, and come again to learn our position.” He added: “They do not give us answers; our priorities regarding the negotiations have not changed.” He accused the mediators of not seeking peace in Darfur as much as personal achievements. He said: “These mediators come to us seeking to make personal achievements to demonstrate their success to their bosses; they did that in the Abuja negotiations between the government and a number of Sudanese movements in 2006 and in subsequent rounds of negotiations. However, we will only accept the mediation efforts that will achieve our basic demands and that will restore the rights of our people.” He said: “At the Abuja negotiations, the former US envoy, Robert Zollick, pressured us with the sole objective of making a personal achievement to flaunt to his bosses in Washington. However, peace was not achieved.” He reiterated that “there will be no negotiations unless we set off from the right beginning, namely meeting our priorities.”
Nimr described the US envoy, Gration’s talk about improvement in the humanitarian situation in Darfur and that what had happened there was not genocide as contradictory and inconsistent with the remarks of other officials in the US Administration. He derided the talk that Muhammad Nur has lost his popularity, saying: “We know what we want, and our kinfolk know that very well too. They know that that SLM leadership is serious, but that the mediators are not.” He added: “We will not cede the rights of our kinfolk so that these mediators achieve their own success.”