January 18, 2018

Who, exactly, represented Darfuris in Doha?

According to news reports, “around 170 civil groups from Darfur” were engaged in consultations in Doha last week. Having heard no real “buzz” about the first-ever, long-overdue, inclusion of Darfuri civil society in peace negotiations I was curious about who these 170 groups actually were. I remember the hype and excitement in the build up to Mandate Darfur (the civil society conference organized for early this year, but canceled at the last minute after the GOS obstructed the travel of civil society representatives). It seemed odd by contrast that I had heard no chatter about this latest effort to bring representative Darfuris to the table.

From the get-go, rebel groups were saying that the civil society forum at Doha was an NCP-stacked farce. But knowing that in the Abuja negotiations rebel leaders were as unenthused about having civil society involved as the GOS was, and that they remain uncomfortable about any civil society representative that expresses views different to their own, I was disinclined to take their word on this at face value.

Finding sources not aligned with either the GOS or the rebels is a challenge, but here’s what I have:

When asked about who went to Doha, one UNAMID worker in Darfur reports that civil society representatives were selected “in consultation with the government.” I found this an interesting response given that when I had asked GOS officials about the cancellation of Mandate Darfur when I was in Khartoum, I was consistently told that the GOS supports civil society participation, it’s just that Mandate Darfur “went about it the wrong way.” And when I asked exactly what this meant, the response from three different officials was that the GOS wasn’t “properly consulted” in the organizing of the conference. (Those involved in organizing Mandate Darfur say that they did consult the government, but whatever they did obviously didn’t suffice. By contrast, the write up about the Doha civil society forum in the Sudan Vision (a pro-GOS paper) this weekend indicates that those organizing Doha engaged in the kind of consultation that satisfied the GOS.)

What might such consultation involve?

Another official within the UN system gives us a clue with his claim that  “90% of the participants of the Doha civil society conference are NCP members.” I tried to get some verification of this. The best detail I have so far is a report from someone who attended the start of the session in Doha, and who broke down the numbers in following way:

“170 is the total number of the participants. Fifty percent of those are NCP members. Of the 170 participants, 62 of them are from Khartoum-based Darfurian and non-Darfurian organizations, and 13 of those 62 were selected by the Sudanese authorities. The rest of the participants are from IDP camps and were selected by the Sudanese government.”

So it was looking an awful lot like the NCP’s “consultative” status enabled them to cherry-pick of the attendees.

But then I got an email from another friend who stayed through to the end of the consultations and came away feeling that although the NCP had indeed try to stack the forum, it was a good conference overall and that we should be on the lookout for some crucial recommendations coming from it. On the lookout I shall be . . .

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