The All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), a fellowship of 169 member Churches and Christian Councils in 39 African countries, has issued a strong call for a unified commitment to peace with justice in Darfur.
The AACC statement, signed by its general secretary, the Rev Dr Mvume Dandala, welcomes the United Nations' role in peacekeeping, calls for cooperation from Khartoum and rebel groups, and pleas for the underlying causes of the conflict to be addressed.
The full statement reads as follows:
The last two years have been [ones] of great tribulation for the people of Darfur as they have been of much soul searching for the entire continent. For the church in Africa it was a moment of grave concern about the worsening situation of loss of life and property in Darfur. The church in Africa expressed these concerns in no uncertain terms and it is therefore important for the Church to appreciate the latest peace developments in the region.
We are glad that the call for a UN multinational force in Darfur from the family of nations, with a strong mandate for actual peace keeping and monitoring as deserved by the people of Darfur has yielded fruits. We salute the commitment of the UN to bring to an end the unspeakable suffering of the people of Darfur by deploying a 26,000 Strong UN and AU peace force in the region starting this December. Moreover, we are encouraged by the welcome extended by the Khartoum government to the peace force.
Though Khartoum could have acted faster and averted the loss of life and property that its delayed action has caused, the AACC is encouraged by the sense of civic duty that the government of Sudan has now shown towards the establishment of real peace and ending of loss of human life.
However, we are constantly conscious of the fact that Khartoum has in the past refused to have the UN force deployed in the conflict region. Indeed, the situation of the Darfur people deteriorated past under the very nose of the government of Sudan and this much was acknowledged by many credible organizations, including the UN itself. Who the Janjawid Arab militias are and how they were able to carry out armed atrocities in the presence of the Sudanese government security agents, are questions that Khartoum has never answered. Indeed, these armed groups did threaten aid agencies as they did with the African Union force. It is our sincere hope that under the UN watch, these actions will not be repeated.
Whilst appreciating the mandate of the UN force to only use force where it sees that there is a threat to human life the mandate should also include the use of force to create buffer zones between civilians and aggressors by the troops. At the same the UN force has been said to comprise troops from mainly African countries. Our hope is that the composition of these troops will not be in a manner that would give Khartoum leeway into influencing the UN force through other means including religion in order to perpetuate its interests in Darfur.
We also wish to affirm the just concluded Arusha peace talks by different factions of Darfur "rebel" groups in preparation of envisaged talks with the Khartoum government to resolve the Darfur conflict. At the same time, we welcome the timely gesture by the government of promising to release Suleiman Jamous who is seen by the rebels and aid workers as a peace agent in the region.
Though it is regrettable that a number of rebel group factions were not able to attend the Arusha peace talks, these developments which are certainly a build up for long term peace, are encouraging.
The concern of churches is that the root causes of conflict in the Sudan should be seen to be adequately addressed. For instance, the concern that the Darfur situation was a government creation for diversion of attention from the south for non-implementation of the much celebrated Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) should be addressed.
Peace efforts should not be just mere gestures of containing rebels, they should be a platform for addressing pertinent issues that compromise peace. Moreover, peace efforts in the Darfur region or any one part of the Sudan must not be at the expense of another region in the country.
The AACC, having journeyed with the people of Sudan for decades is greatly encouraged. We pray and hope that the government of Sudan and the people of Darfur as well as people from other regions of the Sudan, will be committed not only to have successful discussions but implement bargains arrived at during peace talks in order to realize peace, dignity and development the Sudan.
Peace for the Sudan is in itself a big victory for Africa and for both the Muslim and Christian communities in the continent.
Rev Dr Mvume Dandala
General Secretary - All Africa Conference of Churches