November 12, 2008

Sudan President Orders Darfur Cease-Fire

Sudanese President Omar Hassan Bashir says he's ordering a cease-fire with rebels based in Darfur and will move to disarm pro-government militias.

Bashir made the declaration Wednesday after receiving the recommendations of the Sudan People's Initiative, a Khartoum-backed plan that did not include any input from the key rebel group Justice and Equality Movement, the BBC reported.

A prosecutor from the International Criminal Court in The Hague is seeking genocide charges against Bashir for allegedly aiding pro-government Islamic militias in efforts to carry out an ethnic cleansing campaign against the black African inhabitants of Darfur, where up to 300,000 people have died and more than 2 million have fled their homes since 2003.

Although past Darfur cease-fires have failed, some say Bashir's move holds out hope for the troubled region. One unnamed international observer told the BBC that it could be an attempt by Bashir to put pressure on rebel groups to sign onto a 2006 peace agreement, which most of them rejected.

It could also be an attempt by the president to convince the international community to defer the ICC case against him, the broadcaster said.