FORMER SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT MBEKI IN SUDAN TO MEDIATE IN PEACE TALKS

KHARTOUM, March 31 -- Former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who is the head of the African Union (AU) High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) for the Sudan, arrived in Khartoum on Wednesday for further talks with the Sudanese government and opposition parties on the peace process.

Following the signing of the Roadmap Agreement with the Sudanese government on March 21, Mbeki said opposition groups had refused to sign it only because of the venue of the dialogue meeting, reported the Sudan Tribune.

The framework deal proposes the signing of a cessation of hostilities followed by separate talks on the Two Areas (South Kordofan and Blue Nile State) and Darfur. In addition, it provides that matters of national importance be discussed within the national dialogue process.

Last November, Mbeki announced the failure of negotiations on the Two Areas between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement North (SPML-N), and on Darfur between the government and the Justice and Equality Movment (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement faction led by Minni Minawi (SLM-MM).

The rebel movements, which are allied in the Sudan Revolutionary Front, want a comprehensive solution for the political, social, financial and economic crises in the country.

SPLM-N Secretary-General Yasir Arman said the opposition also wanted the international community to be more involved in the mechanism of the AUHIP.

However, the Sudanese government wants separate peace talks on the southern and western regions.

The conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile between the Sudanese government and SPLM-N has entered its fifth year. It has been characterised by continuous high-intensity military action and air attacks, according to a report, 'Two Fronts, One War: Evolution of the Two Areas - Conflict, 2014-15', by the Small Arms Survey, an academic and research institute based in Switzerland.

While the front line has not substantially changed since the end of the first year of the conflict, the distance between the parties remains significant, and the seventh round of talks between the warring parties in Addis Ababa from Nov 12 to Dec 8, 2014 ended without major progress, with the AUHIP unable to close the widening gap, stated the report.

Pasqualino Okello, a lecturer from Victoria University in Kampala, Uganda, believes the Sudanese government is largely responsible for the peace talks failing to move forward.

"The Sudanese government is resisting democracy and supporting militias who are fighting the opposition groups from the Two Areas and Darfur partly because they want to weaken these opposition groups and they want to control oil resources, some of which are located in Darfur," Okello told the African News Agency (ANA).

Meanwhile, in addition to Mbeki's continued involvement in Sudan, another South African is getting involved in both Sudan and South Sudan.

"South African governance, constitutional and electoral reform specialist Nicholas Haysom has been named as the UN Secretary-General's special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan," reported DefenceWeb news portal on Wednesday.

He succeeds Eritrean diplomat Haile Menkerios and is moving back to Africa after a stint in Afghanistan as Ban Ki-Moon's special representative for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) since 2014. Prior to that, Haysom had been deputy special representative of UNAMA since 2012, reported DefenceWeb.

He was previously director for political, peacekeeping and humanitarian affairs in the Executive Office on the UN Secretary-General (2007 to 2012) and head of the office of constitutional support for the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) from 2005 to 2007.

Source: Name News Network

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