Danforth Wants Assurances Cease-Fire Will Be Honored

St. Louis Post - Dispatch
January 13, 2002

Special envoy John C. Danforth and his staff of four arrived Saturday aboard a chartered A-300 Airbus jumbo jet with Midwest Airlines blazoned on the side.

The airplane was supplied by an Egyptian charter service on short notice. Defense Department transport was unavailable, as was a smaller jet the State Department had initially chartered for Danforth's group. That the charter company's name smacked of Danforth's mid-America roots was pure coincidence.

The former Missouri senator arrived in war-torn Sudan a day earlier than scheduled, canceling a stop that had been planned for Asmara, Eritrea. The change in plans followed reports from United Nations personnel that a Sudanese army unit had violated a cease- fire agreement for the Nuba Mountains region -- an agreement that Danforth's team negotiated last month, covering a region in south central Sudan that he plans to visit on Tuesday.

A U.S. official traveling with Danforth said the Eritrean stop had been scrapped because Danforth wanted assurances immediately from Sudan's government that the cease-fire agreement would be honored.

Meetings in Kenya behind him, six days of frenetic travel ahead, Danforth relaxed on the flight by immersing himself in a subject light years removed from the turmoil of east Africa: "Fair Ball: A Fan's Guide to Baseball," by sportscaster and fellow St. Louisan Bob Costas.

"One of my favorite subjects," Danforth quipped.

As for his peacemaking mission, Danforth said that a meeting with President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya left him reassured that regional leaders will put aside their differences to work jointly for peace in Sudan.

Danforth said Moi had promised to send a senior aide to Cairo soon, perhaps this week, to discuss the possibility of a common peace proposal with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Danforth is scheduled to meet with Mubarak later this week.

Kenya and Egypt have championed competing peace proposals for Sudan, with Kenya favoring a referendum on self-determination for contested areas of southern Sudan and Egypt adamantly opposed.

Danforth said Moi's commitment to a unified Sudan was significant, especially since Sudan's principal rebel movement has its headquarters in Nairobi.

"I think the feeling on the part of Kenya, of Egypt -- of virtually everyone except some in the south of Sudan -- is that if self-determination means a separate country it's a bad idea," Danforth said. "The goal here is not to fracture a country; it's to provide real guarantees that people are not going to be oppressed."

On his one-day visit to Nairobi, Danforth also met with an exiled Catholic bishop from south central Sudan and with Sen. Bill Frist, R- Tenn., a politician-surgeon who was en route to a medical hospital in the rebel-held region of southern Sudan.

As Danforth was setting out to work, a Sudanese official in Khartoum said that the United States would be mediating talks in Switzerland between the government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army, The Associated Press reported.

The statement by presidential adviser Ghazi Salah el-Din Atabani said the negotiations would aim for "the implementation of the agreement reached with the American envoy to Sudan, John Danforth, during his recent visit to Sudan."

Danforth refused to comment on the planned talks. The U.S. Embassy also declined to comment, as did the State Department in Washington.