The Sudanese government and a rebel faction in the country’s troubled Darfur region have agreed to embark on talks that many hope will eventually end a six-year conflict that has killed about 300,000 people, Qatari media reported Tuesday.
The government and representatives of Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) will sign an initial agreement Tuesday on confidence-building measures, Qatar’s official news agency, SUNA, quoted the country’s prime minister as saying. The sides will then begin detailed talks in two weeks, Sheikh Hamad bin Jasim bin Jabr al-Thani was quoted as saying. In November, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir agreed to an immediate, unconditional cease-fire in Darfur, but JEM was not included in the talks. Fighting broke out in Darfur in 2003, when rebels began an uprising and the government launched a brutal counter-insurgency campaign. The Sudanese authorities armed and cooperated with Arab militias that went from village to village in Darfur, killing, torturing and raping residents, according to the United Nations, Western governments and human rights organizations. Al-Bashir is under pressure to end the fighting, particularly because he was charged with genocide by the International Criminal Court last year for the government’s campaign of violence in Darfur. In the past six years, an estimated 300,000 people have been killed through direct combat, disease or malnutrition, the United Nations says. An additional 2.7 million people fled their homes because of fighting among rebels, government forces and allied militias.