Darfur peace talks that were planned for this weekend have been effectively shutdown as the main rebel leaders boycotted the meeting. The current talks are part of a pre-negotiation phase that would lead to more in-depth discussions in the next couple of weeks.
It was hoped that negotiations between rebel leaders and government forces would break the deadlock in the four and a half year conflict in Darfur.
But many of Darfur’s rebel leaders stayed away from the talks. Some distrusted the role of Libya, which is seen as being too close to the Sudanese government. This view was reinforced earlier this month when Col Gadafy dismissed the conflict in Darfur as a “quarrel about a camel”.
Opening the talks on Saturday, Col Gadafy noted that both key rival leaders, Abdul Wahid al-Nur and Khalil Ibrahim, were absent. “These are major movements, and without them we cannot achieve peace,” he said.
Even as the talks began, Reuters reported that Sudanese forces were attacking areas along the Chad border.
Rebels from two factions, which did not attend the talks, said on Monday the government had attacked the Jabel Moun area along the Chad-Sudan border on Saturday, the very day the government announced a ceasefire.
“At the same time they were announcing that there is a ceasefire there was aerial bombardment in Jabel Moun,” said Justice and Equality Movement commander Abdel Aziz el-Nur Ashr.
Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) commander Jar el-Neby confirmed there had been an attack but offered no details.
A Sudanese army spokesman, however, denied the reports.
This is the same pattern that has played out any number of times over the last seven years. The majority of rebel groups continue to distrust the government’s intentions for peace, while Khartoum continues to treat negotiations as a form of bait to attack rebel positions and the civilian population.