Briefing on Abuja Peace Agreement for DarfurRobert B. Zoellick, Deputy Secretary of State
May 5, 2006
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Thank you. We have an Abuja peace agreement for Darfur.
I want to start by emphasizing the critical role played by the African Union and, first and foremost, by President Obasanjo of Nigeria, who really did an extraordinary job and I worked very closely with him in the process. I've seen a lot of fine chairs over some 25 years of doing this, but he really was extremely skillful. And then Dr. Salim Salim, the former Tanzanian Prime Minister, who was the mediator for the process and had developed the text that many of you are familiar with. I think it was on a website, that they had tried to get agreement on April 30th in which we had, over the course of the past couple days, recommended some modifications that are part of the agreement.
Also, just in terms of the background, the international partner support was as unified as I've ever seen in a diplomatic effort and I worked particularly closely with Hilary Benn of the UK, who is the Secretary of State for Development, but also the EU, Canada, Arab League, a number of the individual European countries.
This is an important step. It is an opportunity for peace and it is a complement to the North-South CPA, Comprehensive Peace Agreement, but now we must turn to other vital steps, including the implementation. As many of you have probably seen over the wires, I am pleased that Minni Minnawi, who is the leader of the largest SLM group on the ground in Darfur, signed the agreement today with the support of his commanders. And one of the things that took us a little bit longer was that he was quite actively consulting with the commanders, not only in the session that ran until 5:30 or 6:00 this morning, but he also reached out to more of them. And that's a good thing because it gives him a broad base of support.
Also, one of the sort of diplomatic techniques we used I was given a letter by the President to Minni Minnawi that -- if you guys want, let me know and I know will mention some of the text from it, because I think it helps show the U.S. commitment. Just to add to the sense of poignancy, as we were trying to put together this (inaudible) arrangement today and work over the final document, Minni Minnawi learned that his brother was killed in the field. We don't know whether it was a rebel force or others, but it was a pretty heavy load for a guy to take. In the past couple of months, he'd lost a father to a natural death and a sister to a car crash, so he's a guy in his mid-30s, he's a pretty courageous guy and he certainly performed extremely well over the past couple days.
What also was interesting, which you may not have heard yet, was that as we did the signing arrangement we had some 15 members of the other major SLM leader, Abdelwahid, his group come in and present a letter to the African Union -- it was led by Abdelwahid's chief negotiator and they said that they wanted to express their appreciation for the AU mediation team's effort and they felt that their leadership was not conducive to peace and therefore all the signatures on this petition urged the AU mediation to associate them to the final arrangements for peace in Darfur and note their desire for peace. And they say that they will be able to have many more associated with that process but they just did that in the afternoon.
That's a very useful sign because it suggests that one of the ironies of this process may be that the SLM, which was divided in two factions, may be coming back together in this process, although Abdelwahid remains outside the process.
Another device is that the African Union is, I think, very wisely going to follow up on this agreement promptly. They're setting a meeting up of the African Union Peace and Security Council on May 15th and one of their purposes is to welcome the agreement but to encourage all Darfur movements to participate and they will use that May 15th date to urge them. And they will also determine the treatment of those who resist the peace agreement.
In addition, as we were going through these coordinated events, I talked with a number of the AU leaders and I was very pleased; they told me that they also wanted to move promptly to encourage the UN peacekeeping force in Darfur and to help build on the AMIS force providing security. So I hope we'll be able to move on that both in the UN and with the AU Peace and Security Council.
Now, a reasonable question is, well, you've got the Government of Sudan, you've got Mini Minnawi and you've got some of the other Abdelwahid, but what about the others? And I just want to remind all of you that they're all supposed to be subject to a ceasefire now but one of the pressure points, obviously, will be on all parties to call to end the violence as part of this agreement, so it's time to turn from guns and bullets to making decisions through political debates and the ballot box under the Comprehensive Peace Accord.
Now, I mention that we're going to -- we'll have to promptly turn to the other steps in the implementation and just to give you a quick feel of that, we're going to need to support the monitoring and the verification of this accord, we're going to need to meet humanitarian needs. All of you are aware of the points we were making last week that the World Food Program has been cutting rations. We've been providing 85 percent of the aid. We were going to try to look to see if we can even shift some more, but we also face a very terrible situation in the Horn of Africa.
We will need to support the reconstruction and development efforts to create an opportunity and one of the other things that happened today is that in this agreement, the -- along with it, the international partners agreed to have such a conference like the Oslo conference was for the CPA and to do it, I think, within about three months. But the Netherlands offered to host the meeting very promptly.
So through all this, we want to keep our focus on the people of Darfur. They're the ones that have really suffered and they're the ones who are crying out for peace and they deserve a fair shot at not only returning to their homes but political participation in the Sudan that is struggling to overcome its past by achieving peace, both North and South and East and West.
What I will do, just because I don't know who on the call has had this, is that you can get more information back at the State Department. We tried to prepare a little two-and-a-half-page backgrounder on highlights of the Darfur peace agreement so I don't know if that's already available to you but -- Rich is signaling me that it is so I won't go through it in detail. You guys can ask more questions.
What I will emphasize is that there were a lot of good things in the 85-page agreement, draft agreement that had been prepared by the African Union mediating staff. What we did after listening to the movements but also having discussions with the government, is try to focus on some areas that given the lack of trust and the fear that we thought some additional detail would be supportive. And in particular, we prepared two papers: one, amendments on the security topics and then the non-security. In the security topics there was already an obligation in the text to neutralize and disarm the Janjaweed militia. What we recommended and what was ultimately accepted was that the government has to prepare a plan within 37 days of the signing. We specified that the plan has to include various phases and particular actions, such as moving the Janjaweed and other armed militia into specific restricted areas prior to disarmament, moving (inaudible) heavy weapons, specific assurances of security in assembly areas for the rebel movements and other steps to contain, reduce and ultimately eliminate the threat posed by the Janjaweed and other armed militia.
So in addition, the sequencing and phasing schedule requires that the Janjaweed and other armed militia be disarmed before the rebel forces assemble and prepare for their own disarmament and integration. And the African Union will be a verifier of this. We also added requirements about the Sudanese Government punishing the ceasefire violations, including through immediate disarmament and demobilization. There's a language that establishes buffer zones around the IDP camps in humanitarian assistance corridors which neither rebel forces or Sudanese armed forces can go. That was in the April 30th text.
So the other items on the security text, in addition to specificity on dealing with the neutralization and disarmament of the Janjaweed was the question of the integration of the movement's forces. And so we added specificity on that as well. One key item was to put in how many people would be integrated and we recommended that the text includes that: 4,000 former combatants would be integrated in the army; a thousand in the police; and three thousand supported through an education and training program to assist in the civilian reconstruction.
In addition, another significant issue was the government was urging that these be brought in as individuals. We recommended that they be brought in of groups of 100 to 150, which is their -- tend to be their unit size and a requirement that 33 percent of the battalions be formed of the movement forces, up to 50 percent in some areas where the parties agree -- it may help with the return of IDPs, if you have a higher ratio. And then we also put in requirements about a brigade commander from the movements, one out of three battalion commanders and full representation of various leadership positions in headquarters and the Ministry of Defense and other things.
So that was the -- kind of the two core issues in the security arrangements. On the non-security, what most of the points went to was trying to strengthen the political base of the movements in advance of, under the CPA, a series of elections. I think the most important part is the rebel movements are now given the fourth highest position in the Sudanese Government which would be senior assistant to the President. As you know, some of the movements were urging vice president. We have this position in the office of the presidency, which becomes quite important because there are a series of decisions that are made by consensus. But we also strengthen this role by having it be the chairperson of a transitional Darfur regional authority. This is important because one of the other major political goals of the movements was to create Darfur as a region. Right now it's composed of three states. The agreement has -- that the draft agreement the AU provided established that there would be a popular referendum by July 2010 on whether Darfur would be established as a unitary region with a single government.
So the question was what would be the strength of a transitional Darfur regional authority? And we connected the chair of that authority to this senior assistant to the President and we also gave this person the authority to nominate for selection by the Sudan presidency a series of important posts that are listed as part of the Darfur regional authority. These deal with lands, these deal with the security arrangements, they deal with development, they deal with reconstruction. And in addition to those, some, I think, six (inaudible) commissions, there are three governors and, of course, there's the chair. And of the three governors, one of them is also selected by the movements. So in total, eight of the ten positions will be coming from the recommendation of the movements.
In addition, there are to be elections at every level of government, including the state and local, not later than July 2009. That is in accord with the international constitution, so that's how this connects in with the Comprehensive Peace Accord. But to try to strengthen the position of the movements in the interim, we created a number of seats for the movements at various levels, at the national assembly, at the state governments, at the local level. I mentioned one of the three state governors of Darfur and two deputy state governors, various positions in the state ministries, and so on. So that was the heart of the power sharing.
On the wealth sharing, this was already in the prior agreement that there was a commitment by the government to contribute $300 million initially and $200 million a year for two additional years. And the text has also called for a joint assessment mission. This is the type of mission that was used in the North-South accord led by the World Bank to determine the specific reconstruction and development needs of Darfur, and then this connects to the commitment we made as part of this package about the international community holding a donors conference.
So there are other items, but that kind of gives you the core elements. So if I could just ask the coordinator of the call to open up the lines to questions.
OPERATOR: Thank you. At this time, if anyone has a question, please press *1 on your touchtone phone. All questions will be taken in the order they are received. Again, *1, if anyone has a question. Our first question comes from Glenn Kessler. Sir, you may ask your question.
QUESTION: Hi. I wanted to just dig a little deeper on the question of the disarmament of the Janjaweed. You know, under the Comprehensive Peace Accord, I think all the government troops were supposed to be out of the South by now. It hasn't really happened. What kind of commitment or guarantee do you have that this would actually -- that this disarmament would actually take place in the time period that you envision?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, first, Glenn, just a slight quibble with your fact. I think under the North-South accord, at least before I left, I remember looking at a report that said they were supposed to have withdrawn, I think, 33 percent of their forces and they actually have withdrawn 33 percent of their forces, and that was verified by the UN mission.
Going to the core question, in this case it's connected to a couple of things. First, the requirement that is now part of the agreement is that the plan that the Government of Sudan must develop within 37 days has to include milestones to be achieved by the Government of Sudan and certified by AMIS. So that is one of the checks. And they have to meet the timelines in the agreement and they then need to include, Glenn, some of the specific items that I touched on; for example, one of it says they have to restrict all Janjaweed armed militia and we actually added PDF because there has been some concern that the PDF, you know, might have been taking in some of the Janjaweed to their headquarters, garrisons, cantonment sites, or communities and take other steps to contain, reduce and ultimately eliminate the threat posed by such forces. That will be something the government has to have in the plan. Another element is disarm all the above forces of heavy weapons and then points about (inaudible) ceasefire violations and other things.
But the key discipline is that the text has -- and we require this to be put in the government's plan -- is that there before the movements have to go to the assembly areas, which is prior to (inaudible) demobilization, the Government of Sudan has to ensure that no Janjaweed armed militia pose a threat, and that is certified by AMIS. So that's the sequencing point. It's a little bit of belt and suspenders, Glenn. It has to be in there and it has to be supervised by AMIS. In addition, before the movements do their later steps you have to have the actions and the certification. So there's an incentive built in to this system of if the government wants the rebels to move to the assembly areas -- and that is prior to demobilization, mind you -- then that is -- they have to have those steps taken and certified. I might add, this is where it connects a little bit with the (inaudible). One reason why there was extensive discussions about how the demobilization would occur is that by keeping people in units of 100 to 150 people, even as they demobilize, you still have some group cohesion, but by that point you're supposed to have already had the certification.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Barry Schweid, you may ask your question.
QUESTION: Thank you. Bob, if you can hear me, how long do you think it might take for a UN force to be deployed? There have been suggestions, OxFam, for instance, a more speedy injection of additional support, different modes, different arrangements. What is your hunch?
And really not to overly humanize this too much -- this is hard negotiations -- but what measure of goodwill were you able to detect on all sides? Are they suspicious? Are they now ready to turn a corner, turn a page? What do you think?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Okay, well, that's a good question. On the -- let's see, I'm a little tired, the first one again was --
QUESTION: The UN peacekeeping force. Will it take months to get them there?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Yeah. No. Yeah. Well, first off, I think the most important thing is we want to do whatever we can to strengthen the current AMIS peacekeepers and we have been trying to work with African Union countries as well as others to see whether as part of this peace accord we might get some additional troops in there. For example, we've had talks with the Rwandans about perhaps an extra 1200 forces, roughly two battalions that they might be able to bring in.
Now, as for the UN forces, the first step is we've got to get this UN Security Council authorization. As you may know, prior to this agreement, the peacekeeping staff of the UN had been seeking visas to do their assessment mission and the Government of Sudan had not granted them visas. Frankly, I had said that I thought the UN peacekeeping staff ought to be a little bit more creative, since there are 7,000 forces out there already and the AU has the UN liaison, so -- which struck me that it wouldn't be too hard to be able to get the information they needed to do the planning.
I think that -- I can't say definitely, that in the aftermath of this agreement there will be a push, definitely, there had been one by the United States but there will be one by the African Union to move forward the UN peacekeeping force. And just to give you a sense, I talked about this with President Konare, who's the former President of Mali, who's the chairperson of the AU. I talked about this with the Libyans. I talked about it with President Sassou-Nguesso, who's the current chairperson. He's from the Republic of Congo, Brazzaville. I talked about it with Obasanjo, so they're all ready to kind of press this forward. So it's the planning, it's the authorization, it's also sort of when do you start to get which troops in. And I don't think -- again, I'm not, I can't speak for the UN forces. It would be sort of our request that they sort of try to start to move this in pieces since they could connect through the AU mission.
So I can't say precisely what that will be. I will say that starting in June you're going to be going into a rainy season, which is going to delay any process for a number of months anyway, so you hear different time periods that talk about additional UN forces. You know, some people say, you know, four or five months, some say six months, some say later. I just can't precisely say, other than, I think the first step would be -- is strengthen the AMIS mission, which will become the core of the UN mission, and that's something you can start doing right away.
On the -- but also, just to give you another sense, as part of the effort to sort of monitor the forces, some of the current movement forces, we have had some military observers in there and we have talked with our European command about having some people come down right away. And we have presented our request for visas to the Government of Sudan and at least one of the officials of the Government of Sudan said that they would work promptly on those. So in that case, you know, we may be able to have some of the UN that would help with this monitoring and assessment transition process, be able to come, I don't know, in a week or so. So we're trying to move that as quickly as we can.
On your second question about goodwill, the reason I thought it was a particularly apt question which is that one of the trials of this whole process has been that there is a deep legacy of distrust and fear. And I think one of the things that prolonged the discussions in Abuja, month after month -- and I called them discussions, as opposed to negotiations -- was that people were just talking past each other and it wasn't a negotiation in the way that you would traditionally understand a negotiation. You know, people weren't developing texts and then sharing ideas and trying to modify it. And that's what compelled Salim Salim to put forward an 85-page draft text and that's what the government sort of swallowed. They didn't want to, but they agreed to it and that's where the movements balked. And this is where I think this fear and distrust issue is very important.
One of the trying aspects, I think over the past couple days, was it was clear that a number of movements, either hadn't read the agreement or hadn't really internalized what was in it. So they would continue to repeat concerns that were either dealt with in the agreement or subsequently with the package of things that we developed. What does this mean? Well, it means that, you know, one of the roles of the international partners and, frankly the United States, was to try to give people some sense of added confidence and involvement in the process.
I mentioned this letter that President Bush sent to Minni Minnawi and just to give you a flavor of it, he says "I assure you the United States will strongly support implementation of the peace accord. Among other steps, this will include assistance in coordination with the African Union to monitor compliance by the parties. We will insist that any party not cooperating with implementation be held accountable, including by the UN Security Council. We will also support an international Donor's Conference to mobilize funding for reconstruction development." It goes on to talk about our other goals.
Just to give you a little flavor of the dynamic, I used this letter at some point last night. I don't know, two or three or four a.m. to read it to the assembled room, when one of the movements was kind of balking and hesitant and uncertain and so I could read this section which sort of showed the commitment. So one way to bridge the fear and distrust is the role of the African Union and the international partners.
But there is another dimension which was the end of the signing, you know, you asked a question about whether some of the distrust was being removed. This was an African event and what I mean by that, there was a lot of emotion. There was a lot of sense of trying to have a new start for the people of Darfur, but part of this is people are exhausted. You know, they've lost friends and family. But you can see there's the possibility of that. But the reason I'm emphasizing the possibility is there's still a lot of distrust and fear. There's a lot of danger on the ground. And frankly, going around the side, I went to some of the government people, both military and officials who I've worked with in this process and I emphasized to them, that it's going to be their obligation to help try to take care of these people. And I went to some of the military and I said, "You guys don't want the Janjaweed out there. You guys are professional soldiers. You've got to control these people. You got to get rid of them."
And so the proof will be ultimately, when you have problems of fear and distrust, through actions. So what this agreement provides is mechanisms to do that, international support, but you know, there is no fooling anyone it's still going to have to be accomplished on the ground. I'm done, so if there's another question.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Joel Brinkley, may ask your question.
QUESTION: Hi. I don't want to belabor this but, there are still two groups, one, part of one group and another group, JEM that have -- do not agree with this. They have not said what they will do, whether they -- any of them might continue fighting. But don't they still hold the potential to be spoilers here? There may not be many of them, but it doesn't cause -- it doesn't take many of them to cause trouble. And second, when does this ceasefire, this ceasefire ordered through this agreement take effect; now or at some later point?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I believe it's immediately the ceasefire under this agreement. I'm just looking at one of my colleagues -- seven days. Well, we'll check while I'm answering your question for you, Joel.
But let me go to the issue of the movements. That is the reality and it certainly poses dangers, but let's take the first group. JEM, even more after spending as much time with them as I did, is a group that is driven by some Islamic ideology and frankly I didn't have a feeling that they, you know, were committed to a process of peace. Khalil Ibrahim, the leader, totally alienated everybody in the African Union by saying some things that insulted the African Union last night, which I don't think was going to be good for his future in Africa. And President Obasanjo sort of took him to the woodshed for it. Now that leaves the question of what are those guys about. This is a little anecdotal, Joel, so I don't -- I can't rely on it, but I will say that a number of the Africans and others that I talked to said that a good 70 to 80 percent of the JEM leadership operates out of London or Paris and, frankly, it was pretty disturbing for them to be dismissive of a need for peace when they're not putting themselves at risk.
I will say there was another effect, which is that I and others emphasized that we were committed for all parties through the UN Security Council for accountability for actions. And I guess if you're living in London and you may be worried about follow-up UN actions, that's why I think the initial step that we got the UN to take against four of these figures will be useful.
Now as go to the force on the ground, I asked the AMIS mission commander -- I had the same version of the question you did, and he said they're very, very small. He said, you know, they may be up to five, six hundred people. Now for the Abdelwahid forces, you know, they do represent a larger force and in some areas, you know, they represent the predominant forces. And as you recall, this is one of the things when I had the trip to Nairobi, there was a period where many did consolidate more control over the commanders. And Abdelwahid's behavior is mercurial, to be polite, and frankly that has exhibited itself and even in the past week he's had commanders and others abandon him. But there's no doubt, the one key issue here will be the affect of some of his people leaving him in a very public way and the fact that the African Union is going to use this peace and security council meeting to encourage it.
Will they possibly still engage in rebel-on-rebel violence? I think it's always a distinct possibility, but now you're creating an environment where, frankly, if they do so, they're going to be more likely to be treated by the international community as outlaws and renegades and they will have to pay the appropriate price.
Maybe take a couple more questions.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Peter Mackler, you may ask your question.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I'm sorry. Joel, I will try to -- Taya here is checking on your question on the time. Seven days, D plus 7.
I'm sorry. Next question.
QUESTION: This is Peter Mackler from AFP. I just want to go back to a previous question and to ask exactly what is the mechanism going to be for monitoring compliance if these obligations are not being fulfilled? How is that really going to happen on the ground and get to the international community to make sure that these agreements are respected?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, there are a host of provisions here. I mean, it's 85 pages. But if you're referencing the prior question, the actions that in terms of demobilizing the Janjaweed and other armed militia have to be certified by AMIS so the way that happens on the ground is that the government has to show to the AMIS forces that the actions are taken, and if the AMIS doesn't certify it, then you don't take any additional steps on the part of the movements. So this is a slightly different thing. We all recognize the AMIS forces are only 7,000 people. It's a big area. But you see, this is different because the burden of proof is on the other -- is shifted here. The government has to take actions that have to be certified by AMIS, if I properly understand your question.
QUESTION: Yeah. No, the --
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Either --
QUESTION: I'm sorry, the question --
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I'm sorry, go ahead.
QUESTION: Whether -- the question was that there is a history here of people saying they're going to do things that they don't do, so I'm just wondering exactly how you're going to be able to be on the ground monitoring over that whole area that they do do what they do. I guess that was the sense of my question.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Okay. Well, that's a slightly different question, of course, which is the -- remember, the first order was they have to take affirmative actions to be certified. Here you're talking about negative actions of sorts and that really comes back to why one wants to try to strengthen the AMIS force and that starts out by trying to have more forces. As you know, President Bush also* proposed that the NATO forces play a role in terms of planning and logistics capabilities to help those forces be more effective.
And just to give you a sense of that, you know, part of the issue if you're responding to dangerous situations is do you get the intel properly. So one is your intel-gathering function. A second is what is your real-time communication function to your forces. A third part is do you have a tactical transport ability. And it appears in some of these areas they may have the communication, they may have more tactical transport they haven't been able to use effectively, but it's how at, say, a platoon or company or battalion level you coordinate all those effectively so that you can execute the operation. And then the next part is obviously you have to be able to get the appropriate military force and capability to the right place at the right time, and then there are also obviously logistics issues. Some of you may recall late last year I spent a lot of time trying to get a 105 Canadian armored personnel carriers there. Well, we got the 105 Canadian armored personnel carriers in, but their distribution by the AMIS forces tends to be more of, say, a general location, you know, sort of a rough allocation as opposed to necessarily being able to put those in sectors that have the greatest need. Well, similarly, a lot of the mobility operations have been linked to kind of where some of the logistics and fuel resources are.
So this is a slightly lengthy explanation to say that we do believe that with that sort of additional NATO planning and logistics capabilities on operational support, you could add to the effectiveness. But it also goes back to the question of that's why we believe you should get a bigger mission in. You know, we had hoped at one point the UN had -- the AMIS had talked about getting up to 12,000. We concluded they're not going to get to 12,000 and that's why we've been pushing for a UN mission.
So if the question is an implicit way of saying does Darfur remain a dangerous place, yes, it does. You know, and so can one assure that there's no -- there's not going to be any violence? No, one can't. But you now have at least the commitment of the major rebel movement and the government not to be conducting violent operations and you're going to have pressure on all parties not to do it. Is it going to change overnight? I wouldn't say that and I think that would be setting unrealistic expectations. But if the violence can be changed considerably, it will help us with the humanitarian operations, it will help us with the cycle of violence, and then it really goes to the other question. You see, the point about the Janjaweed demobilization is critical to eventually getting people home. So right now, the point is can you sort of lower considerably the level of violence so that you get humanitarian support, that people leaving camps or those that are outside of camps aren't victimized. After you get that level of violence done, you want to create the conditions so people can go home, and to do that you're going to have to demobilize the Janjaweed. So that goes to the certification aspects.
I think one more question. I'm sorry, guys, but you can imagine I haven't had much sleep.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Elise Labott, you may ask your question.
QUESTION: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, can you speak a little bit about the immediate short-term concerns that you have? Now that there's this agreement to disarm the Janjaweed, are you concerned that before that starts to happen, before you have the beefing up of the AMIS force, that they might try to take some retribution? And do you have commitments from the Sudanese Government that if these other two rebel groups continue to instigate violence that they won't retaliate against them and create the cycle of violence, because the agreement is with this one rebel group? Thanks.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, I think your first (inaudible) two questions are kind of connected in my mind in terms of the concerns. You know, the concern is we need to press all parties having signed this agreement to step back from violence. And as one of your questions said, there's the risk of rebel on rebel violence here in the process. And so, you know, we and others did that with the parties at the table. For the parties that left the table, they run the risk that all of us made very clear about what happens to them in the future if they choose a path of violence and sort of be outlaws in the process.
But I think that is an area where whatever we can try to do to sort of expand the monitoring as soon as one can, the better off we are. And frankly, as I said, it comes back to you want to get more AU forces in there, you want to get more UN forces, you want to strengthen the ability of these things. So you know, it really goes back, I think, to the answer I gave to the prior question.
Do I hope that there will be a significant decline in violence? Yes. Can I be certain? No. Will there be ups and downs and incidents? I expect, sadly, to say that there will be. But can you put those incidents on a downward slope and take action against them? I believe you now have a much better chance to do so, and that will help also deal with the basic needs of humanitarian support. And then you do -- where the government (inaudible) that it has a very strong incentive is to start to take the action against the Janjaweed and the armed militia. And frankly, there were some signs that it was already doing so. Now, that doesn't mean they have control over all these guys, but there was some recognition that if we were going to have a peace agreement, it was going to have to do this. And this then leaves one in the nether world of to what degree is there direct operational control and in which way and to what degree have they let very evil factions arise out of the nether world here and are having a hard time going to bring them back. And I think that the truth is probably somewhere in between; I just can't say precisely.
So look, what your last questions have gone to, and I want to be very, very clear on this, is that Darfur is going to remain a dangerous place and it's going to be a place of violence. I will point out that the kind of the levels of mortality that had been achieved in late 2004 were much, much lower than before and, frankly, were lower than a number of other places in Africa. So and then they would spike up and they spiked up a little bit as you were actually trying to negotiate the agreement as people were maneuvering. So might there be some tests of power? Yes. But I think you now have a much better chance for people to take a commitment to peace. Because remember, what you've really been asking about is the security provisions.
There's another side to this story and it really goes to the question -- I forget who asked it -- about kind of the good faith and trust or whatever. Part of the, you know, the reason that these, some rebel movements say they started the fighting was they felt that Darfur was a disenfranchised place. There now is an opportunity for them to participate more actively in national political life and political life in Darfur. And you could already get a sense that people were starting to do that and maybe another point here that, you know, we've been thinking about and you'll probably hear more about is what other ways can we try to emphasize the political development of the SLM as a group that now that it has signed this peace accord. I mean, you're going to have these people, again, be one of the members of the presidency, you know a governor of one of the states. There's a whole host of other positions and bodies they're going to be part of. And so as people start to see a political future, we hope that that will also contribute to an end in the violence. But this -- the dangers and violent story of Darfur, sadly, has not reached a conclusion. It's just what I hope will be an important step on the path towards that day.
All right. It's 10:21 my time. Of course, we tried to finish this agreement all so you could do it in front of your deadlines, but I haven't had much sleep for awhile and I'm going to have a little bit to eat and go to sleep. Okay?
QUESTION: Thank you very much, sir. We appreciate you taking the time to do this today.