Bad news of the day
The Darfur peace talks are in danger of collapse even before they start, after rebel demands at an initial meeting resulted in a shouting match:
The Sudan Liberation Movement/Army and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebels put forward a number of preconditions to holding political talks: disarmament of the Janjawid and the removal of those of them absorbed by the police and army; respect for the 8 April ceasefire; an end to impunity for the perpetrators of crimes and an inquiry into allegations of genocide; unimpeded humanitarian access; release of prisoners of war; and a "neutral" venue for future talks, which did not include Ethiopia.
The coordinator of JEM, Ahmed Jugod, told IRIN that unless these basic demands were met they would not engage in a political dialogue with Khartoum.
A spokesman for the Sudanese government, Ibrahim Ahmad Ibrahim, said "the demands of the rebels are unacceptable". He said the demands showed " disrespect to the African Union". "It is a delaying tactic, the rebels are not serious," he added.
The Sudanese government's objections might impress me more if they hadn't already promised to do most of the things that the rebels are demanding. At the same time, the rebel factions aren't doing themselves any favors by insisting that these measures be completed before the talks rather than in parallel. Time isn't on their side, and arguing over preliminaries will only increase the likelihood that the janjawid will complete their work. United Nations mediators are working to bring the parties back to the table, but even if they succeed, more time will have been wasted while more people become refugees.
Hopefully, the U.N. can do something. It would be nice if the U.S. had some credibility left to take an active role in the peace talks instead of just issuing a soundbyte from Colin Powell every few months.