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Eyewitness Testimony: Alex de Waal


The deadline for signing was twice extended. The Sudan government had said it would sign, but the text had been revised. They’d been—more concessions had been squeezed out of them, especially on security. And none of the three rebel leaders had expressed happiness with the revised document, and it was extraordinary to see the fate of Darfur—and indeed of Sudan as a whole—hinging on these particular individuals at this particular moment. In the months and years after that failure in Abuja, what we have seen is the chance slipping away. The leadership is not there; the pressure is not there. The political interests on getting this thing to a peaceful conclusion are not there.

Millions of people are living a miserable life without human dignity. They’re being kept alive. They have the basics, but they don’t have what they consider the most essential thing, which is their dignity, their community, their ability to have lives and livelihoods in the way that their parents did and in the way they would chose to.

Alex de Waal, Political Analyst, Sudan

In 2005, Sudan expert Alex de Waal was asked to join the African Union (AU) mediation team tasked with negotiating an end to conflict in Darfur, Sudan.

By spring 2006, several rounds of talks between the Sudanese government and leaders of the three main rebel groups had been held. International pressure was building as the parties to the conflict and mediators from the AU, European Union, United States, and Great Britain gathered in Abuja, Nigeria. De Waal witnessed the culmination of these talks during an all-night session of increasingly dramatic and tense exchanges.

In the end, the Sudanese government and only one rebel leader signed.

Years later, although several more rounds of negotiations have taken place, there has been no comprehensive peace settlement for Darfur.