Door closing on wider Darfur peace deal
Khartoum - The door is closing for more rebel groups to join the peace process in Sudan's Darfur, the head of the joint African Union-United Nations Mission to the region told AFP in an interview on Sunday.
Ibrahim Gambari said that a new rebel alliance that aims to topple the regime in Khartoum makes it less likely that more signatories will join a peace accord reached in July.
"It seems difficult now," Gambari said. "If someone who you want to join the peace process is actually uniting for more conflict, that is not very helpful," Gambari said, calling on the groups to work together for a peace that will end the long suffering of Darfur's people.
"We are still open to receive those movements who would like to join the peace process. The door is not completely closed but it's closing."
He said the government is moving ahead to implement the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, which it signed in Qatar in July with a Darfur rebel group, the Liberation and Justice Movement, an alliance of rebel splinter factions.
Gambari, who heads the Unamid mission, spoke to AFP on the sidelines of the first meeting of the Joint Commission, a ceasefire monitoring and dispute resolution body under the Doha agreement.
The pact was the fruit of talks sponsored by the African Union, United Nations and Arab League to resolve a conflict that, according to the UN, has killed at least 300 000 people since 2003 when fighting broke out between non-Arab rebels and the Arab-dominated Khartoum regime.
The government puts the death toll at 10 000.
UN officials say 1.9 million people are internally displaced and still living in camps in Darfur, with about 80 000 newly displaced by fighting this year.
The main armed groups in Darfur - the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), and factions of the Sudan Liberation Army headed by Minni Minnawi and Abdelwahid Nur - did not sign the Doha deal.
But in November they ratified, along with the SPLM-North rebel group, documents forming the new Sudanese Revolutionary Front dedicated to "popular uprising and armed rebellion" against the National Congress Party regime in Khartoum.
SPLM-North is the northern branch of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, which fought a two-decade war with Khartoum before South Sudan gained independence in July.
Six people including Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir are being sought or are before the Hague-based International Criminal Court for crimes allegedly committed in the Darfur region.