Sudan: Darfur Splinter Group Welcomes Khartoum's Call for Peace Talks, Urges International Support

Khartoum — The leader of a splinter faction of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said ready to engage peace talks with the Sudanese government to address the root causes of Darfur conflict, but warned they want a solid international commitment to support the process.

An important number of JEM commanders led by the former commander in chief, Bakheit Abdallah Abdel-Karim (Dabajo) announced the removal of their chief Gibril Ibrahim and appointed Mohamed Bashr Ahmed as acting chairman of an interim military council they formed.

Following a meeting held on 8 and 9 September, the breakaway group said they will hold a general conference to elect a new leadership, and reinstated Dabajo in his position besides appointing Ali Wafi, JEM former military spokesperson, as spokesperson of the military council.

In a satellite telephone interview with Sudan Tribune, Mohamed Bashr said they received a letter from the Chadian President Idris Deby, informing them that Sudanese government demands to negotiate with them a peaceful solution to end Darfur conflict.

"We welcomed the call for peace sent by the Sudanese government, through the President Deby. But this does not mean that we accept to sign a peace agreement with Khartoum," he said.

"The government of the National Congress Party (NCP) used to sign agreements but it also used to not honour it. The Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) is not implemented, and so far it failed to address the root causes of the conflict," he went further to say.

Asked whether they reject the DDPD, the rebel leader said they are very thankful for the efforts exerted during the past years by the international community, including Qatar, to bring peace in Darfur, and praised the efforts done in Doha.

"But the refugees and the internally displaced persons did not yet return to their home, the security situation did not improve, the compensation is not yet paid, warplanes continue to bombard civilians."

"The situation remains the same as before the DDPD signing," he added, asking for a clear international commitment to support the implementation of any future peace deal they may reach with the government.

He also pointed out that they have no contact with the State of Qatar and that the President Deby is undertaking these efforts as a facilitator.

Mohamed Bashr reaffirmed the faction's commitment to the principles of the Movement, stressing that they are peace lovers who want to realise the demands of Darfur people and their inspiration for peace, justice and development.

He further underscored that their move against the leader of the group was only triggered by the lack of transparency and the paralysis of JEM institutions since the death of Khalil Ibrahim, late leader and founder.

JEM leader, Gibril Ibrahim, accused the Chadian government of backing the dissidence and closely cooperating with the Sudanese government to dismantle the largest rebel group which refused to join the DDPD despite its participation in the Doha process.

Gibril also removed Dabajo on 9 August. The decisions was followed by rumours that the altter was accused of working with others to topple him.

Asked about the announced general conference, Mohamed Bashr said their move aims to keep the unity of the rebel group "and this is why we only relieved Gibril Ibrahim from his position as chairman but he remains a member and we invite him to attend the conference," he said.

He also disclosed they had long and regular contacts with JEM speaker Tahir El-Faki on how to settle the rift. He said they suggested him to issue a decision removing Gibril from the chairmanship of the group and to call for a general conference.

"We are keen to the unity of the Movement and our move meant to correct things not to divide people," he said.

In a statement issued on 11 September 2011, the splinter group accuses Gibril Ibrahim of "monopolising" all JEM institutions and turning it into "a private company he runs with some opportunists".

Asked about their coordination with another group led by Mohamed Bahr who quit the Movement after the rejection to sign the DDPD, Mohamed Bashr said they have no contact with this group or Bahr in person.

He also denied any links with the former rebel Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) which includes former JEM members like Bahar Idriss Abu Garda and Tadjadine Bechir Niam.

LJM signed the DDPD with the Sudanese government on 14 July 2011 after a two-year talks. The process is supported by the international community but Khartoum due to the severe economic crisis failed to pay some $200 million dedicated to IDPs and refugees compensation.

The Sudanese government established, Darfur Regional Authority and the LJM participates in the national and regional institutions. Also a donors conference is scheduled to be held in Doha next December.

The government and LJM are negotiating the rescheduling of the agreed calendar to implement the DDPD as referendum on Darfur status should be held within one year.

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