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The war is over in Darfur, well maybe -

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The war is over in Darfur, well maybe

Carly Laird reported this story on Friday, August 28, 2009 12:42:00

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The outgoing UN military commander of Darfur caused a stir saying that the real
war in the Sudanese region is over.

But after complaints from aid groups and the Sudanese rebel groups denied it, he's clarified his
position.

He says there's still a lot more to be done.

Carly Laird reports.

CARLY LAIRD: The outgoing commander of the peacekeeping force in the Sudanese region of Darfur,
General Martin Luther Agwai, surprised many when he announced yesterday that the war there was
probably over.

MARTIN LUTHER AGWAI: Honestly as of today I would not say there is a war going on in Darfur. What
you have is security issues more now, banditry, people trying to resolve issues over water and land
in a local level. But the real war as such, I think we are over that.

CARLY LAIRD: But when asked to clarify his position to the BBC today he was a little less
optimistic.

MARTIN LUTHER AGWAI: I didn't say the war is over. The question I was asked was that is the war
over. And I said in the military sense, as to what you would define a war where classical military
equipment being used for fighting and for long fights going on as we have seen in all the wars that
I defined, I would say we will not have that.

I do not see there is capacity for that at the moment. And I said there would definitely be more
fighting and low intensity operations will continue. That is what I said.

CARLY LAIRD: The UN estimates the six-year conflict in the region has claimed the lives of over
300,000 people and left nearly three-million displaced from their homes and villages.

Helen Ware is a professor of peace studies at the University of New England.

HELEN WARE: What the rebels would maintain is that the Sudanese Government in Khartoum favours the
Arabs as against the black Africans and that this is a continuing pattern and that there has been a
genocide.

Certainly many people have died, partly because they have actually been directly killed, also
because they were driven out of their villages and of course people can't survive in very rough
country, very arid country.

CARLY LAIRD: Many still cannot return to their homes and are waiting for a successful peace
agreement to be reached.

And General Agwai agrees that this is the next critical step for the region.

MARTIN LUTHER AGWAI: There is a lot more to be done because I still believe that there is no peace
agreement that the peacekeepers will keep.

What we need now more as I said yesterday and I'm repeating is that there is a lot of diplomatic
and political effort that has to be done.

CARLY LAIRD: But there are fears that it's too difficult to unite the disparate groups.

Professor Helen Ware again:

HELEN WARE: The rebels are not united. There's 20, even 26 different rebel groups. And one of the
problems of course in making peace is trying to get all 26 of them to agree to one thing at one
time.

And they would say well no, it's not peace because there hasn't been an actual agreement.

CARLY LAIRD: The joint African Union-UN peacekeeping force, known UNAMID has been in Darfur for
more than 18 months now and it's likely that it will have to stay for some time yet, at least until
Sudan holds its presidential elections which are scheduled for April next year.

Noah Bassil is the deputy director of the Middle East centre at Macquarie University and has spent
five years studying the conflict in Darfur.

NOAH BASSIL: Sudan is an interesting place because it has a history of, quite a long history, well
at least from independence in 56 of competitive and free elections but it's also got a history of
authoritarian governments and military coups against democratic regimes.

So there is a sense that there is a democratic tradition in Sudan but whether it can overcome the
tendency towards authoritarianism and the nature of this military cabal, its hold on power, I'm not
entirely sure.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Noah Bassil from Macquarie University ending Carly Laird's report.