Coat of arms Office of the President of the Republic > Press centre

Meeting with the JEM group and Ahmed I. Diraige

Ljubljana, 05/30/2006  |  press release, statement

Click to enlargeThe President of the Republic dr. Janez Drnovšek met today with the leader of the negotiators of the Justice and equality movement – JEM, Ahmed Tugod Lissan and a member of this movement's leadership, Abdullahia Osman El-Tom as well as with Ahmed I. Diraigo. The talks of the President of the Republic are dedicated to the study of possibilities for a pacification of the political, security and humanitarian situation in Darfur following the partial signature of the Peace agreement for Darful in Abuja.

After the meeting, the President of the Republic dr. Janez Drnovšek, made the following statement to the press:

"I would like to extend my greetings to all of you. I have just met with the representatives of the Justice and equality movement that also took part in negotiations in Abuja. Mister Diraige, the leader of the Democratic union of Sudan, an all-Sudanese political party and the former governor of Darfur, was also present at the talks. Click to enlarge
You probably remember that he has been here once before and that we already discussed the situation then. We have been in contact with him as have been trying to help being about the final political, security and humanitarian solution to the problem in Darfur. The current situation is such that only the agreement was adopted on May 5th in Abuja. But not all the parties did so. The Sudanese government accepted it; one fraction of the rebel movement accepted it, the one led by Minni Minawi. Two other groups did not accept the agreement. One, led by Abdel Wahed Mohamed El-Nur, which belongs to the Sudanese liberation moment, and the other, present here today, the Justice and equality movement. Click to enlarge
We invited both groups that did not sign the agreement and we had waited almost until the expiry of the deadline set by the international community. That is, until May 31st, to allow those two groups to accept the agreement as well. When we observed that no progress had been made, we renewed contact with them and they were very interested to come here and try to find a solution. We also invited the Sudanese government to participate in this, but the Sudanese government did not respond favourably to our invitation. Both groups agreed, but only one of them came today. That is the Justice and equality movement. We thus held the first talks with them today and we will continue tomorrow morning. The leader of this group, dr. Ibrahim Khalil will join us in the morning, and together with the two chief negotiators who are here with us today, we will then try to find a solution to the situation that has developed. In this sense, I see that the only possibility now is that also this party accepts the agreement, albeit with some reluctance that it obviously has, says what it does not agree with and what it would like to achieve in the process.
The situation on the ground is very bad, critical. The battles continue and the humanitarian crisis is vast and deteriorating daily. The rain season will begin and, unless there is a quick pacification of the situation and the conditions are created for the smooth realisation of the humanitarian activity, we can expect a terrible catastrophe and further loss of human life. It is therefore very important to find a solution immediately; that both parties to the conflict strive for the pacification of the situation, so that we can all see to the people who suffer. The fact is, that not everybody is satisfied with this agreement, but on the other hand, it is also a fact that the international community endorsed it and accepted it such as and that is demands from those two rebel groups that have not accepted it, to do so until midnight tomorrow. If not, these two rebel groups are threatened with sanctions. But this would, of course, reflect on the situation on the ground in Darfur where conflicts would probably continue. The political dialogue would cease with those two groups or with the one that would not accept this agreement. Seen from this perspective the situation is thus quite dramatic and the leadership of the JAM or the Justice and equality movement will probably have to decide here, in the course of the day tomorrow, about what to do; either to adopt the agreement and accompany this decison with certain statements, or maintain the position that it will not sign it, with all unforeseeable consequences that would follow. Our interest here is to find a solution that will be in the interest of the people in Darfur. It is high time that the suffering of people there comes to an end.
When we got involved in this activity, both humanitarian and political-security, in the end of January, we had one objective to guide us: to stop the plight of the people as soon as possible. At that time, our initiative, at least agitated all the agents and maybe this made them somehow more determined to join the negotiating process in Abuja. We would like to see this all bring us to a conclusion that would make possible a real pacification of the situation on the ground and a normalisation of peoples' lives. I can tell you this much about it today. As to tomorrow's result, we will of course inform you tomorrow, probably at about the same time as today."

The President of the Republic dr. Janez Drnovšek responded to the questions asked by the journalists:

Mister President, could you tell us why the representatives of the second rebel group did not come?

Dr. Janez Drnovšek: "Honestly, I do not know, because until yesterday afternoon they had been expressing great interest to come. All technical and travel arrangements had been made for them. Then, nothing else was heard from them. They are probably exposed to pressures, possibly some special negotiations, if I may say so, from some other side. If this yields a result, we will be satisfied. So, let us hope it does. Our only intention was to help in a situation that looked totally hopeless. The representatives of the other group, the JEM, are here and I must say that their position is very firm and that they do not accept the Abuja agreement. Today's talks confirmed this. This evening and tomorrow morning we will continue to try to find another formula in order to prevent an escalation that would probably result in an event that tomorrow at midnight the deadline runs out and that this is followed by international sanctions against them. Such an outcome would have negative impact on the ground, unless everybody takes part and participates in the peace process. This, of course, means that the conflicts would continue, which is what we wish to prevent."

Was there any breakthrough in the talks made today? Is there still a chance that JEM would sign the agreement tomorrow? And what are the chances that SLA would sign the agreement tomorrow?

Dr. Janez Drnovšek: "It is now very difficult to assess whether or not a breakthrough will be made tomorrow. I have already said that their position is today very firm. That is, they do not accept the agreement, but we will see. Maybe we will find a formula that would allow us to stay in the game, if I may say so, also in the future in order to prevent the interruption of this process. What will happen with the other group, it is of course difficult to say. Probably, something is happening with it today as well. So, we will see if any breakthroughs will be made there."

Mister President, I would like to ask you if any reaction from the international community has been noted? On the other hand, I would be interested to know your opinion about Mister Minawi's gesture to sign the agreement in Abuja? Could it be that he has thus betrayed his people?

Dr. Janez Drnovšek: "It is difficult to say, to assess his gesture and all the circumstances. We all wish to see a resolution of the situation and probably Mister Minawi judged that – despite some shortcomings- this agreement nevertheless leads to at least an improvement of the situation if not to its final resolution. A lot depends on the implementation of the agreement. How is it going to be implemented? Sometimes an agreement is very appealing, but it is poorly executed or not implemented at all. The reactions to our initiative, and I will not go into details, have been somewhat mixed. Some welcomed it while others did not. I, therefore, have the feeling that some consider the only the big players can solve situations of the kind. We are concerned by the solution. Our interest is not to know who will solve the problem, but to have it solved. In this case, we have waited until the very end, until this deadline. We will tell you more tomorrow. Thank you very much."