By HALIMA ABDALLAH Special Correspondent
February 15, 2014[Khartoum] — The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) is set to lead the mediation in the conflict between the Sudanese government and the rebel group SLM.
Khartoum had spurned an earlier offer by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni to act as mediator between the rebel groups fighting in Darfur and the government.
According to James Mugume, the Permanent Secretary in Uganda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, heads of state agreed to take over the mediation role.
“We are all members of Igad and Uganda can only strengthen the roles of Igad if Igad asks Uganda to do so. We have met with the presidents and we agreed that Igad will mediate. There is no way Uganda can have parallel mediation,” Mr Mugume said.
According to media reports from Khartoum, President Museveni offered to mediate the conflict at a meeting with Sudan President Omar Al Bashir on the sidelines of the 22nd AU heads of state summit in Addis Ababa last month.
Reports quoting Sudan’s Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Karti say he told the Sudanese Legislative Assembly that his country had rejected the request.
“The Sudanese government refuses the Ugandan mediation as long as it hosts the rebels on its territory,” Mr Karti said.
Sudan accuses Uganda of hosting SLM leader Abdul Wahid al Nur and some of his loyalists, and President Bashir made their expulsion from Uganda and cessation of all support a precondition for any role by Uganda in the mediation effort.
Uganda denies supporting the SLM militarily and insists its leaders are out of the country. “They do not operate from Uganda, but some of his people are here,” Mr Mugume said in response to questions by The EastAfrican.
In the past, Sudan and Uganda have traded accusations over support of dissidents. Uganda accused Sudan of supporting LRA rebels who had bases in South Sudan but crossed into Uganda.
Sudan then accused Uganda of supporting the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army (SPLA) that was fighting from South Sudan.
In 2005, Sudan and SPLA signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement that eventually brought the war to an end. That meant that the LRA could not stay in South Sudan.