Mbeki in Sudan for Darfur peace talks

Thursday April 2 2009

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki  REUTERS

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki REUTERS 

By ARGAW ASHINE, NATION Correspondent

ADDIS ABABA, Thursday

Head of African Union special panel for Darfur, former South African president Thabo Mbeki, arrived in Sudan to begin the search for a lasting solution in the conflict raged region of Darfur.

Mbeki arrived in Khartoum on Wednesday evening and was scheduled to meet Sudanese officials. He will also visit the Darfur region.

According to AU Peace and Security Council sources, Mbeki will hold a series of talks with tribal leaders, displaced peoples' representatives, UN and AU peacekeepers, political parties and civil society representatives.

The AU panel for Darfur, inaugurated at the end of March 2009 in Addis Ababa, aimed at fighting impunity and ensuring accountability in the region

Thabo Mbeki and his strong African eminent personalities Darfur panel planned to achieve a three-pillar objective of expediting the peace process, installing justice and start reconciliation process among the warring parties in Sudan.

Mr Mbeki, who mediated the Zimbabwe political crisis, is now scheduled to meet Sudanese government authorities, Darfur rebels and neighbouring states and submit a progress report to African Union in the next four months.

Mbeki has faced sharp criticism for his “soft” stand against Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe during his mediation effort, but he defended the criticism by saying the mediation was successful and achieved the intended result.

Mbeki dismissed criticism that he might have another “soft” stand on Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir, who has been charged with war crimes, and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court. The ICC issued an arrest warrant on Al Bashir March 4 this year.

“I am not starting a responsibility of defending any criticism” Mbeki said during his recent visit to Addis Ababa.

Mbeki said his team's responsibility is to produce the required result based on the mandate given from AU.

He stressed the value of reconciliation in healing wounds and to bring lasting peace rather than retaliation, as his country South Africa did after the fall of Apartheid.