Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - The African Union (AU) on Friday welcomed the signing of a peace agreement between the Sudanese government and a rebel faction in Darfur after three years of talks in Doha, Qatar.
AU Commission Chair Jean Ping welcomed the signing of the Darfur Outcome Document in Doha, Qatar, by the Sudanese Government and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM).
Ping said the signing of the agreement was a positive development that would greatly contribute in bringing about sustainable peace, security and development to the people of Darfur who so richly deserve it.
“The signing of the Agreement will now pave the way for the start of the Darfur‐based political process as it has been agreed by the AU and UN and endorsed by the Communiqué issued at the end of the All Darfur Stakeholders Conference on 31 May, 2011,” Ping said.
The Thabo Mbeki-led AU High level implementation Panel (AUHIP) and the AU‐UN hybrid operation in Darfur (UNAMID) are prepared to facilitate the Darfur Peace Process (DPP), as soon as possible, Ping said.
He praised the two parties for signing the agreement, saying they put the interest of the Darfuri people above any other considerations.
Sudanese President Omar El-Bashir and Sheikh Hamad Ben Khalifa Al‐Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar, witnessed the signing ceremony as well as the heads of State of Burkina Faso, Chad, Eritrea and the Prime Minister of the Central African Republic.
The AU Commission was represented at the signing ceremony by the AU Deputy Chairperson, Erastus Mwencha.
The deal was mediated over the last three years by Qatar’s Ahmed Bin Abdullah Al‐Mahmoud, and Djibril Bassolé, the former AU‐UN Joint Chief Mediator who was recently appointed Burkina Faso’s Foreign Minister.
Ping reiterated his call to the other armed rebel movements to cease hostilities in Darfur and join the peace process so as to put an end to the suffering of the Darfurian people.
Speaking on behalf of the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UNAMID Chief Ibrahim Gambari said the signing of the Agreement was a "significant step forward."
"We are gathered here to witness and extend support to the building of a strong foundation for an inclusive and comprehensive resolution to the conflict," Gambari told the gathering.
The ceremony was witnessed by representatives of Darfuri civil society, government and the LJM as well as several African heads of state, diplomats, Qatari officials, and representatives of the League of Arab States, African Union and Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
LJM chairman Eltigari Seisi Mohamed Ateen also addressed the ceremony.
The protocol agreement indicates a commitment on the part of the Government of Sudan and the LJM to the outcome document of the All Darfur Stakeholders Conference of 27-31 May, 2011, also held in Doha.
Gambari urged the other armed movements in Darfur to sign up to the Doha Document. He said UNAMID was ready to prepare the ground across Darfur for an internal political dialogue to involve the people of Darfur in any peace agreement achieved.
"The challenge remains to determine how best to engage and persuade 'hold-out' groups that a military solution to the Darfur conflict is not the way to go, while encouraging them to make every effort to participate in a comprehensive peace agreement as soon as possible," said Gambari, the interim Joint Chief Mediator.
Darfur and the UN need a "peace agreement to implement and the commitment of the parties to stop fighting in order to begin reconstruction, beyond relief,” Gambari said.
“We're addressing the root causes of the conflict, particularly water," he said.
-0- PANA AO/VAO 15July2011