Darfur — Darfuri rebel groups disclaimed the findings of the report by a United Nations experts' panel, which claims that the rebels are strengthening their presence in Libya to build up military strength and return to fighting the government forces in Sudan.
AFP reported on Wednesday that the UN Panel of Independent Experts also said Sudan was continuing to pour weapons into Darfur to support its military campaign there, in violation of a UN arms embargo. The panel has been appointed the mandate to monitor the arms embargo on Sudan and report to the UN Security Council every six months.
Regarding activities of the Darfur rebel groups, the panel' s 53-page report sent to the Security Council this month said that many of the rebels have joined Libyan armed groups and are "reportedly building up their military capabilities in order to be ready to return to Sudan when the environment becomes more conducive. [... ] Libya has emerged as an important source of financing for Darfuri armed groups."
"The research has to draw information from various parties, not only the Sudanese government." - JEM
In an interview with Radio Dabanga, the spokesman of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), Mutasim Ahmed Saleh, said: "The Committee of Experts has to draw information from various parties involved in the conflict in Sudan instead of relying on government sources only."
Ahmed Saleh said that many people who flee wars and poverty in Africa are headed to Libya, to flee to Europe. He claimed that what is happening in Libya is one of the repercussions of the European attempt to prevent migration. "It has made young people from various African countries work with Libyan groups for material gains after being stranded there."
The JEM spokesman stressed that these groups have nothing to do with them. "The prevailing belief that a military uniform is similar to the uniform worn by our movement is incorrect and inaccurate, and should be corrected."
'Presence limited to Darfur'
The experts travelled to Sudan twice, in April-May and again in June-July, for talks with the government, which stressed that there were no military operations in Darfur but rather security sweeps against bandits.
In response to the report sent to the Security Council this month, the Sudan Liberation Movement faction led by Minni Minawi (SLM-MM) described it as a report "lacking credibility and evidence".
Speaking to Radio Dabanga, spokesman Mohamed Hassan Haroun accused the Sudanese government of fabricating information about the existence of the movement's forces in Libya and feeding this information to the experts. He called on the United Nations' panel "to sit down with all the parties and listen to them before reporting the government's information.
"The movement's constitution and ethics prevent it from interfering in the affairs of the neighbouring countries and limits its presence only to its territory in Darfur".
'One rebel group left in Darfur'
According to the panel's report, the only rebel group remaining in Darfur, the SLA-AW, has about 1,000 fighters who are "well-versed in guerrilla, mobile tactics" in the mountainous terrain. All other major Darfur armed groups are present in Libya, many of whom have joined the ranks of military strongman Khalifa Haftar, the head of the Libyan National Army which controls the east.
In Radio Dabanga's ongoing reporting on the renewed heavy clashes in Darfur's Jebel Marra, the SLM-AW was the only armed movement reported to be involved in the fighting. The panel's report confirmed that the clashes, after nearly a year-long lull, have resulted in a "significant number of casualties on both sides and among civilians."
The fighting in Jebel Marra since February has forced thousands to flee, with many taking refuge in caves and valleys with no access to food, water or proper shelter, the Panel of Experts acknowledged. "The situation has been uniformly characterised as a dire humanitarian situation," it said.
Until now, the SLA-AW has refrained from joining informal talks about the resumption of peace negotiations between the Sudanese government and two of Sudan's main armed opposition groups, the SLM-MM and JEM. It neither declared an unilateral humanitarian ceasefire in Darfur together with the SLM-MM, JEM and SLM-TC movements in May this year.