LL#2 – The Darfur and Doha Peace Talks 2009 – 2014

Dear reader.

Good to have you back.

Today, let us take a brief look at the follow-up to the failed Darfur Peace Agreement (2006) and the Doha Document for Peace (2009-2011).

Background: Based on an initiative pushed by Qatar in 2010, the leaders of the major movements went to Doha for ceasefire talks[1]. Negotiators for most of the movements are in Doha, Qatar, for peace negotiations that are mediated jointly by the UN/AU. However, a key movement, SLM/A-Wahid is not participating, while the JEM pulled out in May 2010 despite signing a ceasefire agreement with GoS in March 2010[2].

In 2014, both the UN under UN Special Representative of the Secretary General, Haile Menkerios, and the AU High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), under the leadership of President Thabo Mbeki have attempted to revive the Doha process[3] and to unite the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF)[4] in order to proceed to a first cease-fire agreement.

Process: In 2009, the Doha talks began mediated by the AU/UN Joint Mediation Support Team (JMST) chaired by Ambassador Djibril Bassole, former foreign minister of Burkina Faso. Initially Bassole invited only the JEM; other rebel groups were allowed to join later, with some initially refusing because of the venue in an Arab state. By 2011, most of the secular rebel groups had also joined. Libya and the U.S. also held meetings with the rebel groups, the outcome of which was the unification of the groups previously associated with the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM). In July 2009, talks began between the JEM and the GoS at Doha. These talks led to trust-building agreements that were not honored. Shortly after these rounds of talk, bombing and fighting broke out in 2010 in Darfur. The humanitarian situation continued to decline as the number of IDP’s rose and food shortages increased. Then in January 2011, the government looked to strengthen its hand by negotiating with a new rebel group, the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) led by Tigani Seisi, former governor of Darfur. At the talks held in Doha were also Thabo Mbeki, Djibril Bassoule and Scott Gration. These talks were seen by the other main Darfur rebel groups – the JEM and SLA – to be an attempt to divide and weekend Darfurian opposition and leaders of both groups spoke out against the talks, most notably on a visit to Juba to gain recognition from the Government of South Sudan. This in turn made the Government of Sudan fear that the SPLM might support the Darfur rebels .However, a draft agreement was signed by LJM and the GoS in January 2011. This was followed by a joint statement by the JEM and LJM reiterating their commitment to the Doha peace process. The Sudan Liberation Movement led by Abdel Wahid did not participate .

Context: The pressure exerted by mediators and international actors on the parties at the Doha peace process was much softer than at the Abuja talks that led to the DPA. The focus at Doha was on building trust between the two parties and the mediators worked to make sure the environment was a safe space for that trust to be built. The mediators also did not draft a document to impose on the other parties as had happened at Abuja as the deadline drew near. Instead, mediators drafted initial documents in 2011 that were sent back and forth to all parties, ultimately resulting in a draft peace agreement in June 2011. However, even though the mediators focused on making the process inclusive and uniting the rebel groups, the JEM refused to sign this peace agreement, which became known as the DPA 2011. The AUHIP also initiated a Darfur Political Process with the goal of conducting Darfur-wide consultations leading up to a Darfur conference to draft a permanent settlement. The process was meant to come up with a settlement that had the mandate of the people because arriving at an inclusive peace process with all armed groups (the aim of Doha) proved very difficult. The lack of local support for the DPA could also have been a motivation for devising a process of canvassing Darfurians about the peace process. The DPP was not meant to overrule Doha or distract from it, and the Doha negotiations continued to focus on arriving at an agreement that would be accepted by all armed groups.

Outcome: On January 15th 2011, the AUHIP, Sudan, the United States, and the UNAMID held a meeting chaired by Mbeki. According to a statement released by the AUIP, the four parties discussed how to expedite the Darfur Political Process and move into the Darfur conference. The parties decided to initiate a Darfur Political Process on the ground to be carried out by the AUHIP and UNAMID In April the AUHIP met again to discuss the Darfur Political Process and concluded that it should begin on May 1, “in a manner concurrent with and complimentary to the Doha talks.”

To this day, this initiative has not succeeded in producing a sustainable outcome and durable peace.

[1] https://www.dabangasudan.org/en/all-news/article/darfur-peace-talks-begin-in-doha-between-government-and-ljm, accessed August 6th, 2015

[2] For a critical appreciation of the Doha process, see Williams and Simpson, 2011, 41 ff

[3] http://allafrica.com/stories/201411281404.html, accessed August 2nd, 2015

[4] The Sudanese Revolutionary Front is a composite of 3 main armed groups: SLA/Minni Minawi, SLA/Wahid, and JEM.