LIANE HANSEN, host:
From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Liane Hansen.
The United Nations' top humanitarian official, Jan Egeland, travels to Darfur today. His visit is the first U.N. assessment mission since a peace deal was agreed this past Friday between the Sudanese government and the region's main rebel group.
The Darfur settlement was brokered by African, American, and British mediators and came after two years of tough negotiations in Nigeria. But two smaller Darfur rebel factions refused to sign, demanding more political concessions.
NPR'S Ofeibea Quist-Arcton has been following the story. She joins us now from her base in Dakar, Senegal.
And Ofeibea, negotiations have been going on for such a long time. What happens now?
OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON reporting:
Implementation of this tentative agreement between the government and the main rebel factions, the Sudan Liberation Army. But two other factions have refused to sign, saying they want to see the more rapid disarmament of the Janjuweed militia, the pro-government proxy militiamen who are blamed for much of the fighting in Darfur.
So the question is will these other two rebel groups spoil the plan? And will there be more security for two million or more displaced people in camps in Darfur, 200,000 across the border in Chad, and many more people. Because of course they're the ones who have been the victims of the looting, the rape, the arson, for three years in Darfur.
HANSEN: Now, if all the parties in Darfur can not agree, can it actually work?
QUIST-ARCTON: That's the $64 million question. Everyone is saying, including the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, who helped to broker this deal, that this is really just a first step. The government, the rebels, and everybody involved must be committed to peace in Darfur, must be committed especially to the protection of civilians.
Now, the government had said that it didn't want to see international U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur until it had an agreement. Of course that happened on Friday. So now it's saying it is willing, but not just yet. If there can be a U.N. force, there is more likelihood of protection and peace, because at the moment 7,000 African Union troops are not able to protect civilians or humanitarian workers or keep the peace or a cease-fire.
HANSEN: And that will happen if the peace agreement actually comes through?
QUIST-ARCTON: If it is implemented and if it holds.
HANSEN: Is there a role for the United States here? They've called the violence in Darfur genocide. I mean, what can they do to ensure that this fighting actually ends in Darfur?
QUIST-ARCTON: More and more and more and more pressure, not only from the U.S., which has been key in two peace agreements now in Sudan, in the south and now in the west, but of course implementation and money. Because the U.N. has already cut rations by half to displaced people and other people in Darfur, in Sudan, because they say they're not getting the money they need to be able to do the humanitarian work.
HANSEN: NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, speaking from her base in Dakar, Senegal.
Ofeibea, thanks very much.
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