A few days ago, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir announced a unilateral ceasefire by government forces in Darfur.
The announcement came from a recommendation by a conference that was held last week to discuss prospects for peace in Darfur, at which there were no rebel groups in attendance. Bashir claims that his government made the move as part of a new push towards peace by the Sudanese Government and called for the rebels to rejoin peace negotiations; the rebels refute this and claim that the government has made this move to try and get President Omar al-Bashir off the hook for a possible indictment by the International Criminal Court. Sudanese officials had actually voices hopes that that the positions of Britain, France, and the US in regards to the ICC would change because of his announcement.
However, key international players such as France have come down on a different side, stating that the simple declaration of a ceasefire is not enough to make them consider blocking the ICC indictment: the situation must be changed on the ground. "What we expect from the Sudanese authorities is an immediate and radical change of attitude on several points … and this ceasefire declaration does not represent such a change," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier.
The rebels have strongly established that they have zero trust in the ceasefire, referencing the countless times that Omar al-Bashir has violated peace agreements before the ink has been dry on the papers on which they were written. JEM has called the announcement a “PR exercise” and vowed to continue to fight until a true ceasefire was established.
The question emerges: so what does this declaration really mean? On one level, it shows that the Government of Sudan is feeling the pressure being brought on by the International Criminal Court’s potential indictment, and other global pressure points. However, the Government of Sudan has by all means earned the skepticism with which the world looks at it, and as an international community we cannot by any stretch of the imagination afford to be naïve enough to take Bashir’s promises at face value. The pressure should at this point be increased at a time when the Sudanese Government is showing this vulnerability, not lessened because of a false sense of security. We cannot yet again be duped into turning our backs while more villages are burned and more Darfuris displaced – to do so reinforces the impunity with which the Sudanese Government has always operated. We cannot afford, and Darfuris cannot afford, to believe in ink on a paper before we see action on the ground.