/ 27 May 2008

Rebels threaten Khartoum as peace hopes fade

A Darfur rebel group threatened on Monday to launch new attacks on Khartoum and central Sudan, amid fears that the region’s peace process was unravelling.

The threat from the Sudan Liberation Movement’s Unity (SLM-Unity) faction came weeks after Darfur insurgents the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) raided Sudan’s capital.

It was unclear whether the SLM-Unity had the military strength to launch a similar assault.

But the aggressive tone of Monday’s announcement was seen as a significant setback as SLM-Unity was one of a small group of rebel factions who had earlier agreed to take part in peace talks with Sudan’s government.

”The movement [has] decided … to turn all its military operations against the central Sudan,” Mahgoub Hussein, a SLM-Unity spokesperson, told Reuters in an email exchange.

”The movement will work with all revolutionary forces in Darfur to storm the Khartoum regime and overthrow [Sudan President Omar Hassan] al-Bashir, and we call on al-Bashir to leave Sudan.”

Hussein also threatened reprisals against security forces he said had rounded up and killed Darfuris after the attack by the JEM. The government denies it is targeting Darfuris in its investigations into the May 10 raid.

Hussein added SLM-Unity would now only take part in negotiations if JEM was also invited and said only the United Nations should chair the talks, rejecting the current African Union involvement. Khartoum said it would never negotiate with JEM after the attack.


The last attempt to get Darfur’s warring parties round the negotiating table fell apart in October when JEM, and the influential founder of the Sudan Liberation Movement, Abdel Wahed Mohamed Ahmed al-Nur, boycotted the proceedings in Libya.

Analysts have warned that there are now serious fears for the future of the whole peace process.

”Everything that has been tried in the Darfur peace process has failed so far,” said Fabienne Hara of the United States-based think tank the International Crisis group.

”The [2006] Darfur Peace Agreement has failed. The transition to a UN force has failed. And now these efforts to revive the peace process are not working. This has left a vacuum in the peace process on the ground.”

A spokesperson for the peace process’s joint UN/AU mediation team said officers were continuing to push for a new round of talks despite the latest statement from SLM-Unity.

In a separate emailed statement received by Reuters, a mostly Arab rebel group, the United Revolutionary Force Front (URRF), said it was pulling out of a group of five small factions, formed earlier this year to take part in peace talks.

Five years of conflict in Darfur has killed 200 000 people and driven 2,5-million from their homes, say international experts. Khartoum puts the death toll at 10 000. — Reuters