News and Information
Sudan 'welcomes' Darfur autonomy
|September 24, 2004
| Sudan has given a cautious welcome to a UN suggestion that it should accept the idea of a looser, federal structure.
The UN high commissioner for refugees says Sudan should grant more autonomy to the troubled western Darfur region to end continuing violence there.
Sudan's justice minister says a deal reached with rebels in the south of the country could be a model for Darfur.
More than a million Darfur residents have fled their homes, and thousands are said to be dying every month.
The UN high commissioner for refugees, Ruud Lubbers, begins a visit to Chad and Sudan on Friday to raise awareness of what the UN describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
"My gut feeling is the best would be that Sudan finds itself in a way where it accepts relative autonomies of regions," he said.
Justice Minister Ali Osman Yassin said his government agreed in principle with the idea.
"The deal brokered with the south contains guiding principles for the idea of establishing a federal government with broader powers for the states, similar to the powers given to the south of Sudan," he told the BBC's Arabic service.
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Q&A: Darfur conflict
When asked why his government had not started taking steps in that direction with rebels in Darfur, he said: "The talks currently held in Abuja [in Nigeria] aim at reaching a peaceful solution, and we can draw on the deal we have reached with the south of Sudan."
Under a deal made earlier this year - the Naivasha accords - the government agreed to give the rebels some autonomy and a share of the region's oil wealth.
The Sudanese ambassador to London, Dr Hassan Abdin, said some sort of federal system for Sudan was already government policy. It was a question of how much power should be devolved.
The former rebel leader in the south, John Garang of the SPLM (formerly known as the SPLA) is due to become a vice-president next month.
He says the agreement in the south could provide a blueprint for several other regions.
"Sudan is such a big country. It is the largest country in Africa - 2.5m sq km - you must have a decentralised form of rule," he told the BBC World Service's Newshour programme.
"We have already agreed in Naivasha about substantial autonomy or southern Sudan. I believe such a modality can be applied to areas like Darfur as well as other areas like eastern Sudan [or] the far north of the country."
Aid workers say refugees continue to flee new attacks in Darfur, despite the presence of thousands of extra police officers, sent by the government amid the threat of sanctions by the international community.
"Last week, there were 20,000 people who had fled attacks in Nyala, in South Darfur," Bastian Vigneau operations director for Medecins Sans Frontieres, told the BBC.
The Sudan government blames the refugee crisis on the rebels who started an insurgency in Darfur last year, accusing the authorities of ignoring the region.
The US has described the Janjaweed militia attacks as genocide and accuses the government of backing them - a charge rejected by Sudan.
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