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UN Tells Darfur Rebels To "Get It Together," Despite Qaddafi and Lockheed's No-Bid Contract

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, November 5 -- On Darfur, "the rebel movements should get their act together," said the UN's Ahmad Fawzi, briefing reporters in New York upon his return from the talks in Sirte, Libya. Speaking for the UN's and African Union's joint mediation team, he said that before the first week in December, the rebels should "unify their positions" and say who represents them. Video here, from Minute 43:12. Inner City Press had asked about a quote from the chief negotiator of the Justice and Equality Movement, Ahmed Tugod Lissan, that JEM "will not participate in any talks unless it is just JEM and SLA."

         Are the UN and AU -- and the Sudanese government -- making a mistake by inviting smaller rebel groups to the negotiating table, if this results in larger groups staying away?

            At Sirte there were 27 individuals representing seven rebel movements, Fawzi said. He estimated that in the last year and a half, rebel groups have split into 16 separate movements. Who decides which ones to invite? And realistically, how are JEM and SLA to reassert control over the splinter groups, before the first week in December?

            In a controversial speech delivered in Sirte, Muammar Qaddafi chided the international representatives who had come, saying that the Darfur conflict is local and tribal, and can be resolved without "outside" interference. On this basis and others, some rebel groups are said to favor shifting the venue from Libya to, for example, South Africa. Inner City Press asked Fawzi about this, and the UN's reaction. Fawzi said he has heard that, but that none of the parties has raised it, and that for now the UN and AU contemplate the third and final phase taking place in Libya. Video here, from Minute 30:30. In response to another question, Fawzi praised Libya for its cooperation on logistics, and as a "regional partner," along with Egypt, Chad and Eritrea. But by the logic of Qaddafi's speech, the UN-AU hybrid force is "outside interference." With regional partners like these...

Kicking things off at Sirte, fall-out of Qaddafi speech not shown

News analysis: The UN's heartfelt pitch, as delivered by Fawzi, is that the international community is currently poised to deliver millions in development and reconstruction aid to Darfur, and that the rebel groups owe it to their people to sign a peace agreement in order for this aid to flow. Fine and good. But if the larger groups won't attend as long as the smaller groups are there -- or as long as the peacekeeping force is not fully deployed, which will certainly not take place by the first week in December -- the admonition to "get on the train" may not magically bring order to the chaotic train station and platform.

And, we compelled to again note, the UN's awarding without competition of a $250 million contract for infrastructure for the Darfur peacekeeping mission may be a mistake, in terms of moving toward peace. The UN's Fifth Committee's debate on the budget of the Darfur peacekeeping mission was postpone from Monday until the report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions is released, but Inner City Press has been informed that when the debate finally take place, uncomfortable -- for the UN, or at least its Department of Field Support -- questions may be raised. Watch this site.

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540