KHARTOUM (Reuters) - A peace deal for Sudan's Darfur region has been hindered by a lack of funding, the failure to disarm militias, attacks on peacekeepers and other problems nearly a year and a half after it was signed, a U.S. official said on Wednesday.
Years of international efforts have failed to end a nearly decade-long rebellion in Darfur, where mostly non-Arab insurgents took up arms in 2003 to fight against what they called the Arab-dominated government's neglect of the region.
Sudan's counter-insurgency campaign mobilized troops and allied militias, unleashing a wave of violence. Human rights groups estimate hundreds of thousands of people died in the ensuing conflict.
Although down from its peak, fighting between rebels and government forces has dragged on and banditry and tribal clashes continue to plague the region.
Last year the government signed a Qatar-brokered peace deal with the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), an umbrella of smaller rebel factions, but the main rebels refused to join.
Implementation of that deal - known as the Doha agreement - has faltered, U.S. Special Advisor for Darfur Dane Smith told reporters in Khartoum during his last trip to the region in that role.
"My biggest disappointment, a year and a half after the signature of the Doha agreement, is that we have seen very limited implementation, particularly of those provisions that bring tangible benefits to the IDPs (internally displaced people) and refugees," he said.
He pointed to the lack of money for a fund set up for reconstruction and development in Darfur, and the government's lack of action to disarm militias as the treaty requires.
Militias were "more and more seemingly out of control", particularly in North Darfur, Smith said, although other "disturbing" incidents had occurred in Nyala in South Darfur and Misterei in West Darfur this month.
The Doha treaty suffered another blow last week when the LJM accused the government of attacking its forces and spreading false reports about the assault. The government said it will investigate the incident.
"THE RULE OF LAW IS ABSENT"
Smith said there had also been little progress to address the impunity of people who had committed crimes in Darfur.
A special prosecutor had not effectively brought cases resulting in arrests or convictions and a special court was not operating, he said.
"We have to say, quite honestly, that the rule of law is absent from Darfur," Smith added.
The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and other senior Sudanese officials on charges of war crimes and genocide in the region - accusations the officials dismiss as politically motivated fabrications.
Smith said attacks on the African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID) had also hindered efforts to bring peace to the region.
The government had shown "very little interest" in seriously investigating the crimes and bringing perpetrators to justice, he added.
"For some lawless elements of the population this means there's a perception that it's open season on UNAMID. This is a completely unacceptable situation."
Although poor implementation has dampened the incentive for others to join the Qatar peace process, Smith said the United States still considered the Doha deal a "good basis for peace" and encouraged other rebels to start talks based on the treaty.
There have been few reliable estimates of how many people have died in Darfur's conflict over the years.
In 2008, the United Nations said around 300,000 people may have died - a figure some activists say is too low - and has not published an update since then.
The government has put the toll at around 10,000.
(Edited by Richard Meares)