Two main Darfur rebel groups to boycott talks

Darfur’s two main rebel groups will not attend United Nations-African Union mediated peace talks in Libya, their leaders said on Friday, dashing any chance of a peace deal to end four-and-a-half years of conflict.

”We decided not to go,” said Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) chief negotiator Ahmed Tugod Lissan.

He said the decision was made on Friday with the Sudan Liberation Army Unity (SLA-Unity) faction after long consultations ahead of the talks scheduled to begin in Libya on Saturday.

The head of SLA-Unity confirmed the statement to Reuters in Darfur.

International mediators had hoped as many rebels as possible would attend the talks and negotiate a comprehensive ceasefire. Since a peace deal signed by only one of three rebel negotiating factions last year, the insurgents have split into more than a dozen groups.

Experts have said without full representation by the key rebel leaders, the Libya talks would go the way of the 2006 deal, with little support among the two million Darfuris trapped in displacement camps.

Before Friday’s announcement by JEM and SLA-Unity, key rebels had already said they would not attend.

Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur, founder of Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) rebel group, who commands few troops but has widespread popular support among Darfuris, said he would not go to Libya until a UN force deployed to stop the rape, looting and murder that have characterised the conflict since it erupted in early 2003.

International experts say 200 000 people have died since rebels rose up against the government charging it with neglect. The Sudanese government says 9 000 have died. — Reuters

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