One Small Step Toward Peace in Sudan

March 4, 2010
There was a rare flash of good news about Sudan recently. The government of Sudan and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), one of the two main rebel groups who have been fighting against the government of Sudan and has been backed by the government of Chad, signed a preliminary cease-fire at a meeting in Doha, Qatar. As the BBC reports, the deal "includes a framework for further talks, during which issues such as the sharing of power and wealth, and the return of internally displaced people and refugees will be discussed."

As a Save Darfur blog on the "peace deal" notes, "Any time the Government and the rebels agree to stop fighting, the innocent civilians of Darfur and Chad benefit," and this is no doubt true this time. However, there is a reason that advocates are not celebrating this as an end to conflict. Firstly, it is by no means a comprehensive deal: the government of Sudan has no such cease-fire deal in place with the other main rebel group, the Abdul Wahid al-Nur faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement. This group has recently blocked humanitarian groups trying to get to internally displaced persons (IDP) camps and is not known to be overly anxious to sign a peace deal. Secondly, ceasefires like this one have not been properly adhered to in the past. (The BBC has an excellent analysis on the new "peace deal" here.) Most importantly, however, is that leaders of the IDP camps are still not being represented in these talks. The innocent civilians of Darfur have undoubtedly the most to lose no matter which way the situation turns; their voices should be the first heard, during the peace talks in Doha as well as in the upcoming parliamentary elections. This morning, Rabbi David Saperstein spoke at a Prayer Breakfast on Capitol Hill and urged lawmakers to pay "all attention to Sudan, whose suffering citizens the international community has too often willfully ignored, and work towards peace as national elections approach." As John Prendergast points out in this op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor, now is the time to make "a plea to spotlight what is happening now to cover up the human rights crimes that have been and are being committed" before we lose "the evidence to the vast sands of the Sahara Desert." Tell President Obama to ensure that the upcoming Sudanese elections are free and fair, and by only legitimizing an election that is not won through intimidation and violence.

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