KHARTOUM (SUDANOW)—SUDANOW Magazine interviewed Ustaz/ Sadek Yusuf Zachariah the Information Secretary and spokesman of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) faction, that has acceded to the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) in April 2013, to cast light on the progress of implementation of DDPD. The interview follows:
Q: What additions has your movement made to the DDPD on signing the deal?
A: Many additions were inserted during the negotiations on the five topics of the Agreement, including a provision on setting up a council for herders and nomads which was not contained in the original Document. A sum of 50 million dollars was appropriated for establishing the council which is aimed at raising the productivity of the livestock breeding sector, providing services and regulating the relationship between the herders and farmers to guarantee stability and development for all parties. A provision on the social care fund of 50 million dollars was added to address problems of the needy, the victims of conflicts, the families of the martyrs and the special needs persons. Another provision that was added provides for stretching electricity to Darfur in three years at latest and finishing the West Ingaz highway in two years’ time, although there are indications this highway will be ready before the end of the scheduled two years. The West Ingaz road is an important economic project that resolves many problems in the region. We have demanded the establishment of small and convertible industries for activation of the economy in Darfur by providing job opportunities and for strengthening the spirit on patriotism and finding excise duty proceeds for the people of the region and providing free-of-charge identification documents for the internally displaced persons and refugees upon their return, especially those who are abroad.
Q: How many topics have you agreed upon?
A: They are five in number- the political, the resources and compensations, the justice and reconciliations, the human rights and the security arrangements. These are the topics of the additional protocol that was proposed by the Movement to be included in the DDPD. So far progress has been made in the security arrangements topic but we believe that the progress in the other topics is very slow and weak with the government to be blamed for this matter. We therefore demand that the government implement the political aspect of the agreement, particularly participation by the Movement in the regional and state authorities besides the executive and legislative bodies.
Q: How do you assess the progress of implementation of the peace agreement?
A: What has so far been implemented is estimated at 7% of what we have agreed upon in Doha with the government. For instance, the political partnership in the government and the regional authority began with the appointment of Al-Toam Suleiman as a minister for human resources and Sabry al-Dhaw as a minister of state in the Ministry of Agriculture. That was at the federal level, although the agreement with us was partnership at all levels of the government- federal, regional and state. But until now our partnership was confined to the federal level and, although we believe that this is important, there remains the more important which is representation of the Movement in the regional, state and local authorities to enable the Movement to discharge its duties towards the nationals who are suffering from the war. This partnership will help us bring this agreement on the ground, particularly with regard to the development projects and the rights of the IDPs, the refugees and homeless people in the region in general. We have not until now begun participation in the civil service positions. There are economic issues of direct concern to the people which we have not until now addressed because we have not been an original partner in the regional authority which is responsible for implementation of those issues.
Q: How is the security arrangements process is progressing?
A: All preparations for the first phase of the security arrangements process have finished since its start in Al-Fasher, North Darfur State, with completion of the procedures for 1350 fighters of the Movement. The troops who wanted to join the army and the police were taken to the training camps and the officers were taken for training at the Military College. Others who did not want to join the army and the police went to the DDR Commission and will in the near future get what they deserve of productive projects and other rights in association with UNAMID and UNDP which are responsible for handing out those dues.
Q: What about the weapons of the Movement?
A: As regards the weapons, joint committees of the government, the movement and the parties to agreement have been set up to examine the serviceability of the weapons and machinery and evaluate the weapons in accordance with the provisions of articles 30 and 32 and decide whether those weapons will be given back to the movement or be handed over to the government. We have not reached this phase yet. There are light, medium and heavy weapons and we consider the Doshka canon and above are heavy weapons. A large number of RPG and other pieces of artillery have been given to the joint evaluation committee of UNAMID, the movement and the government.
Soon upon completion of implementation of all phases of the security arrangements, the government will pay the Movement a suitable compensation for its weapons and equipment with exception of the personal arms as decided by a joint committee of the two parties. Article 67 provides that the families of the fighters who were killed or handicapped will get micro-finance from the Social Welfare Fund and the weapons compensations will be distributed to the families which were harmed by the conflict.
Q: What were the causes of the splits within the Movement?
A: Since the signing of the agreement, an advance delegation arrived to Khartoum in August followed by a presidential delegation in November 2013. Throughout that period we kept appealing to the government for implementation of what we have agreed upon, particularly provision of the logistical support as indicated in the agreement which obligates the government to provide the logistical support, immediately after signing the agreement, to the forces of the Movement up to the beginning of the phase of verification and joining the camps. The government would be responsible for all that period but, throughout, the government was unable to pay money for the Movement to arrange for the logistics of its forces. This provided an opportunity for dishonest persons within the Movement’s executive body to agitate the Movement’s chief-of-staff Abdullah Basher and commander-in-chief Yahia Al-Doumah who were in the battleground who, acting on erroneous information, withdrew a part of the forces and moved them to a venue other than that of the main forces without getting orders from the head of the Movement. Later on, Basher turned down instructions to meet the head of the Movement. There are opportunist elements with unachieved personal interests within the joint committee which agitated Basher, fed him with mistaken information and persuaded him not to see the head of the Movement. Those elements aimed at disintegrating the Movement for their own interests and managed to agitate Basher.
Q: Has the dissension by Basher and others any impact on the Movement?
A: The Movement has not been affected by the dissension of Basher and the few leaders who dissented with him. The Movement is now more consolidated and coherent than ever before. If you try to impose a programme on somebody who is not convinced with it, you are going to lose rather than win. We have paid a very high price for peace, we have lost the head of the Movement and his deputy, the commander-in-chief, Salih Mohamed Jarabo and a number of political and field leaders in addition to hostages now in custody with Jibril Ibrahim forces. We have lost all those as a price for peace and therefore we cannot walk back or undermine the process of peace which was built by our martyrs Mohamed Basher, Arku and other leaders.
On the other hand, the members of Abdullah Basher group have now returned and an investigation committee has been formed on orders by the head of the Movement under the chairmanship of the speaker of the legislative council of the Movement, Sabry al-Dhaw. We met with the dissidents and listened to them and found out that they were willing to rejoin the Movement and similarly, we, as a Movement, are willing to accept the former dissidents back to our ranks. The committee is presently addressing their situation.
Q: What information do you have on the fate of the hostages?
A: They are 18 in number, until today those brothers are hostages in the prisons of Jibril group (some of them in Raja prison in South Sudan) and their humanitarian situation and health condition are very poor and many of them got sick due to lack of food and to the torture and were not taken to hospitals for treatment. The NGOs were not allowed to see them and similarly, their families and their relations among the fighters of Jibril group were not permitted to visit them. However, the Movement moved politically seeking an international pressure and we requested the embassies of the peace-loving nations to exert efforts for the purpose. Our efforts resulted in a demand by the UN Security Council to Jibril group to release the hostages but this demand went unheeded.
We are now waiting for the outcome of efforts by the National Dialogue Committee of 7+7 and by African chief mediator Thabo Mbeki to persuade the armed movements, including Jibril’s JEM, still reluctant to join the peace process, into sitting down for peace negotiations in Doha, Qatar. We believe that, if he is serious enough about the peace process, Jibril must first free the hostages before heading for the negotiation in Doha or anywhere else, because the hostages have committed no crime and have only signed a peace deal.
Jibril Ibrahim now argues that we have taken along with us weapons and machinery of the Movement and in this respect we wonder whether the Movement is a company owned by Jibril or a fighting political movement of the Sudanese people. When we joined the Movement, we came with our weapons, our vehicles and machinery and we are not prepared to leave behind to anybody what we have brought along with us. None of the commanders of the Movement can claim that he had brought any weapons; we acquired that machinery during our battles and our individual skills. We acquired the weapons, risking our blood and lives, and we could not leave them behind if we left for peace or anywhere else.
Q: Where is Jibril at present? Is he in Darfur?
A: He is not in Darfur or anywhere in the Sudan. He is in South Sudan and the entire world knows that. He perpetrates humanitarian crimes in South Sudan and his presence there was one of the reasons which made us take the reformative step within the Movement, because we cannot leave our cause inside the Sudan for fighting in other countries like Libya and South Sudan. We have taken up arms for a cause inside the Sudan and we have now put the weapons down for the sake of peace and if he has a cause, Jibril must abandon fighting as a mercenary. Jibril has never offered any service to his fighters who are now suffering a lot. There are numerous reasons which prompted our reformative step and consequently preferred peace to war and we found out that the brothers in the government were serious and responsive to peace and for this reason we have signed the agreement and are determined to implement the peace deal and we are calling upon the government to be as serious as the Movement for implementation of the deal to make it attractive to those who are still keeping away from the peace process. We believe that the DDPD is an inclusive document which has addressed all problems and causes of the region and has tackled the root causes of the crisis and therefore the others have to come along either for introducing amendments or additions so long as the document is man-made.
Q: What is your position with regard to the National Dialogue?
A: We have welcomed the Dialogue and the Initiative and therefore we are now part of the current process for dialogue. Since our signing of the deal we have become honorary member of the council of the national unity parties and have therefore become original partners of the government. We believe that the dialogue and initiative by the President, although made late, constitute the goal set by the all the Sudanese people and Sudanese parties, even those of the opposition. There is a genuine problem facing the country and having become aware of this, the President has proposed the national dialogue which we support in heart and soul. The outcome of the national dialogue will resolve all problems of the country, especially the identity, peace and constitution. We are waiting for commencement of the dialogue in which the Sudanese people will be able to discuss at length and freely all of the standing problems for improvement of the country’s circumstances. There are several experiences some Arab countries have undergone and proved a failure, especially the Arab Spring revolutions and for us to avoid such a failure there must be sufficient freedom and duration for the dialogue so as to find honest remedies to our problems for the country to recover from all ills. The economic situation worsens each and every day and we believe that the dialogue is an important, positive and advanced step forward.
Q: You were among those who took arms; in your opinion, which one you think is better- to conduct the dialogue within the Sudan or abroad?
A: To start with, there is a difference between dialogue and negotiation. There might have been issues which prompted us into taking up arms and for which we sat down for negotiation to reach agreement. The negotiation is for reaching a political settlement while the dialogue is for addressing different problems.
Q: What is your position with regard to the forthcoming elections which will be held on schedule?
A: Our position, as a movement, towards the elections is clear. The Movement is an organization which has not yet obtained legitimacy as a political party. When all phases of the security arrangements are through and the Movement no longer possesses weapons and the security arrangements commission testifies to this and states that the Movement can register as a political party, at that time we can take part in the elections either in coalition with other parties or as an independent party.
Q: What is the position of the Movement towards the tribal conflicts which pose a threat to the security of the region?
A: As you have said, the tribal conflicts pose a threat to the security of the region and even the country at large because, if the conflict expands to other regions, like what has now happened in Kordofan (Hamer and Ma’alya) and if it is not resolved urgently at the central level, I think the security would deteriorate in Darfur, Kordofan and the Sudan if the center failed to deploy army troops and other organized forces for separation of the conflicting parties from each other. The crisis must be resolved radically as all the truce agreements have failed because there was no supervisory body to check each party and to punish every party which violates the truce. I, personally, accuse other third parties which incite conflicts because there are no conflicting interests between the parties to a conflict who are often relatives. There must be other parties which are interested in the conflict and we therefore appeal to the parties to the conflict to deny other parties of interest a chance to incite the conflict and to sit down for reconciliation and accept the opinions of the native administration and tribal leaders.
Q: What message do you have for the Darfur holders of arms (Menawe, Jibril and Abdul Wahid)?
A: We tell them that the war only leads to destruction and backwardness and sincerely appeal to them to opt for peace so as to build the nation. We renew our appeal for stopping the war because there is no point in fighting against each other as long as the government has recognized the Darfur rights and is willing to sit down for negotiation as it is a positive step towards peace. The war, which has continued for more than 10 years, brought us nothing but destruction, misery, backwardness and displacement. We are stretching friendly hands and are ready to offer everything we possess for attainment of peace and we are also prepared to make concessions even from the authority.
Q: And your message to the people of Darfur and Sudan at large?
A: At first, we would like to congratulate the Sudanese people on the blessed Adha feast, wishing them all prosperity and blessings. We are stressing the need for solidarity and unity of rank and for the success of the national dialogue and, within it, the communal dialogue in which the Sudanese people must get ready to participate because it will address all problems confronting the country. In this way, we can build a powerful and healthy society and all the problems can be resolved through the dialogue. My message to the people of Darfur is to forget the past bitterness and internal conflicts and to consolidate and adhere to each other for finding a sound, healthy social fabric to help our region catch up with the march of advancement, progress and development.
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