News and Information

Dafur: Obasanjo Hosts Peace Talks, Seeks Quick Solution
August 24, 2004
This Day (Lagos)

August 24, 2004
Posted to the web August 24, 2004

Josephine Lohor

President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday opened the peace talks on the Dafur crisis which he convened in Abuja with a charge to the participants to work out a fast solution.

Obasanjo also declared that the international community is waiting to see the outcome of the Abuja peace talks and end to the crisis plaguing the region which has now become the problem child of the world. He said the 3,000 protective force of the African Union (AU) in Sudan "is to complement the Sudanese security.

"Let me say this: The AU forces is not a peace-keeping force in the true sense of it. It cannot replace the Sudanese security", he added.

While formally welcoming the Government of Sudan and the contending groups comprising the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) to the peace talks, Obasanjo said the groups must reach amicable solution to the crisis in that country.

Obasanjo who convened the peace talks in his capacity as Chairman of the AU, reiterated that "the lingering crisis in Dafur is grave."

"The international community is indeed waiting to see what will emanate from the Abuja Peace Talks. The waiting cannot be indefinite, in the face of the sufferings of thousands of innocent men, women and children in Dafur", the AU chairman said.

While emphasising the need for success in restoring peace to the troubled region, Obasanjo said:"We cannot afford to fail in restoring peace and security to the region. Today, we stand on the threshold of history. Let us not shame our people. Whatever it takes, let us not shame humanity and ourselves as leaders".

The President, who described the conflicts in Africa as "too disturbing and too shameful" urged the participants in the talks to have an open mind.

"Remember the massive destruction of villages, the dislocations caused by the incessant raids, attacks and counter attacks by the militants, the huge cost in man and material that the crisis has inflicted on all .Let us not forget the vast amount of resources, human and material, deployed to provide humanitarian assistance, while resources can be better and more productively utilised in providing development projects that will improve the quality of life and reduce the daily toiling and suffering of the masses of the peoples of this region of our continent.

"Africa cannot continue to be the problem child of the world, known for the pitiable pictures shown around the world of miserable-looking children and women, dying of malnutrition and diseases as a result of wars and internal crises. Just when we thought that we had put that ugly reputation of perpetual crises, refugees, instability, violence, destruction and avoidable deaths behind us, here comes another moral, political, social and humanitarian challenge," he said.

With Vice President Atiku Abubakar also in attendance, Obasanjo had earlier said that "as far as we are concerned in Africa, one of our houses is on fire. It is only an irresponsible leader that will have his houses on fire and will do nothing".

The Chairperson of the AU Commission for Peace and Security and former President of Mali, Alpha Konare, while emphasising that the crisis in Dafur needed a democratic and not military solution, stated that "we need to initiate serious discussion for democratic Sudan because that is the only solution for a United Sudan. It therefore, behoves on the Sudanese themselves to solve this problem. The position of the AU is for a negotiated democratic solution".

Konare added that "nobody should ignore what is happening here and nobody should waste time because it would mean the loss of more persons and property".

Secretary-General of the UN, Mr. Kofi Annan, had in a speech he sent to the talks commended Presidents Obasanjo and Konare for their steady commitment to ensuring peace in Dafur. He added that the peace talks translated to the willingness of all parties concerned to ensure peace.

The representative of Libyan president Moammar Gadaffi, Dr. Ali Tureki, expressed the belief that Africans are capable of solving their problems by themselves. He urged that "we should avoid any foreign intervention because this could be dangerous and it will be laying a bad precedent. If we allow any foreign intervention, that may be the end of the continent".

Representatives of the Congo, Uganda, Chad, the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security as well as former Nigeria military leader, General Abdulsalami Abubakar who is now Obasanjo's Special Envoy on Dafur also attended the talks.

Sources close to the talks told THISDAY that the deliberation at yesterday's parley centred on humanitarian, political and social issues for the purpose of expediting return to normalcy in Sudan.

The meeting which started yesterday morning adjourned at about 4pm and resumed at 8pm. The members adjourned again around 10pm and will return to the negotiation table by 11am today.

However, Obasanjo also yesterday said Nigeria will continue to work for peace, security and political stability in all parts of Africa because they were necessary conditions for much needed growth and development on the continent.

"Our efforts to deepen and enhance fairness in international trade is predicated on there being peace and security in our communities. Without them, trade and development cannot grow", Obasanjo told an American delegation led by the Senator Charles Hagel, and Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Sub-committee on International Policy, Export and Trade Promotion.

The President conferred with Hagel's delegation on a wide range of issues including the Sudan peace-talks being hosted by Nigeria, the war against terrorism, the Gulf of Guinea Commission, Liberia and Nigeria's economic reform agenda.

The President said the best possible outcome to the Sudan peace-talks would be a political solution that would bring peace to the country and leave its neighbours happy.

He also called for greater American and international support for the take-off of the Gulf of Guinea Commission saying that the organisation would help to ensure peace, stability and the security of the region's energy resources.

Hagel said that as current chairman of the African Union, Obasanjo's leadership would be critical to whatever happens on the continent in the near future.

He commended Nigeria's peace-making efforts in Africa, pointing out the country's role in Liberia for special praise.


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