KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan’s president said on Saturday the current round of Darfur peace talks would be the final negotiations with any armed group.
Qatar-hosted peace talks are due to open on Sunday but the leaders of the two original Darfur guerrilla groups are both refusing to join. Smaller factions who have few forces on the ground are participating.
Khartoum launched a counter-insurgency campaign in 2003 to quell a revolt by mostly non-Arab rebels demanding more autonomy for the arid west.
President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is accused of war crimes in Darfur by the International Criminal Court, charges he rejects.
“The current Doha round will be the last for any armed group and there will be no legitimacy through the gun, only through the ballot box,” Bashir told a meeting of his ruling National Congress Party late on Saturday.
Rebel divisions and fighting have been the two biggest obstacles to peace talks which have been ongoing since 2003 in Chad, Nigeria and Libya before moving to Doha.
Sudan’s army has been clashing with the most militarily powerful group, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), since government aerial bombardment forced its troops to abandon their stronghold and go on the move.
The isolated leader of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur also refuses to participate, although he resides in Paris far from his field commanders.
No government has been announced since April elections returned Bashir’s NCP in the north and the former southern rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the south, both with massive majorities and opposition accusing both parties of widespread fraud.
Oil-producing south Sudan will vote in seven months on a referendum on secession, which most analysts believe will result in independence. But many issues such as the north-south border, along which much of the oil reserves lie, are yet to be agreed.
Bashir said the SPLM would get 30 percent of the new government with the same ministers they had before the polls, with the exception of the Foreign Ministry. He said the SPLM complained they did not get enough oil revenues, supposed to be split roughly 50:50 under a 2005 peace deal, so he had given them that portfolio.
“The (SPLM) in the new government shall take the Energy Ministry so they can be sure they are getting their share of the petrol,” he said.
Since the April polls Bashir’s security services have cracked down on the small political freedom opened up during the electoral process, arresting opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi and cracking down on press and civil society freedoms.
Journalists said security services told them their newspapers would be fully censored unless they agreed to not write about the ICC or a doctors’ strike over poor working conditions except from government sources.
And on Saturday the SPLM-aligned paper Ajras al-Huriya, said it would not publish for a third day in a row because the security services had removed so much content.
“We think the security elements are focused on Ajras al-Huriya because they want to rig the referendum,” said acting editor-in-chief Faiz al-Silaik.
Security services were not immediately available to comment.
Reporting by Khaled Abdelaziz and Opheera McDoom