July 3, 2005
Darfur rebel rifts are big obstacle for talks-Chad
By Opheera McDoom
SIRTE, Libya (Reuters) - Divisions among Darfur's rebelsare the biggest problem facing peace talks and rebel leadersare showing no desire to reach a political solution to the warin western Sudan, neighboring Chad said on Sunday.
The talks started last month in the Nigerian capital Abuja,but soon stalled after one of the two rebel groups declared itwould not accept Chadian mediation and the other said it wantedEritrea, at odds with the Sudanese government, to mediate.
Chad's foreign minister Nagoum Yamassoum said on thesidelines of a meeting of African foreign ministers in theLibyan town of Sirte that the conflict in Darfur, now in itsthird year, had cost the budding oil producer Chad tens ofmillions of dollars.
"The rebels create problems with Chad -- what interest dowe have in creating problems that would prolong the conflict orthe presence of refugees which costs money, adds security risk,damages the environment?" he told Reuters.
The Darfur rebellion has forced more than 200,000 refugeesinto Chad's remote eastern desert. Yamassoum said the rebelswere creating problems with Chad to try to prolong theconflict.
"They say they don't want us because we say the truth whichis that the rebel political leaders do not want peace," hesaid.
"The people who live in Amsterdam, London, Paris ... whoare in these five-star palaces, who have not even seen Darfursince 5-6 months, and for whom the Darfur, the war, has givensome authority, they are received by heads of state -- they donot really want that to stop," he said.
Tens of thousands have been killed and more than 2 millionforced from their homes in the fighting in Darfur, which beganearly in 2003 when rebels took up arms accusing the Khartoumgovernment of neglect of the region and of giving Arab tribespreferential treatment. The United States has called theensuing violence genocide.
Yamassoum said the lack of consensus among rebel leaderswas the biggest obstacle to talks moving forward.
"They are contesting with each other -- who are the realleaders? No one knows who they are and that's been thedifficulty with the conflict here since the beginning," hesaid. "There is no real leadership of these rebels."
African foreign ministers were on Sunday discussing Darfurand the expansion of African Union forces there to more than7,000 troops from around 2,400 currently deployed to monitor ashaky ceasefire agreed last year.
"If the AU is there with 7,000 troops, the security of thecivilian population will be greatly improved," Tabassoum said.
Darfur boasts one of the world's largest humanitarianoperations with more than 11,000 aid workers in a region thesize of France. The United Nations is also in the process ofdeploying more than 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers to Sudan's south,where a peace deal was signed in January to end more than twodecades of a separate civil war there.
Tabassoum denied accusations that Chad was supporting somerebel groups over others to promote rebel divisions.
"If there are Chadian soldiers who sell their arms orequipment to assure their way of lives and defend their land,they sell them individually -- you cannot then say that it isthe Chadian army who supports the rebels," he said.