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[Dehai-WN] Opendemocracy.net: The death of Khalil Ibrahim: what it doesn't mean for peace in Darfur

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Mon, 2 Jan 2012 23:06:23 +0100

The death of Khalil Ibrahim: what it doesn't mean for peace in Darfur

 <http://www.opendemocracy.net/author/elfadil-ibrahim> Elfadil Ibrahim, 29
December 2011

The likely future of the JEM without Khalil Ibrahim is fragmentation and
eventual disintegration


About the author

Elfadil Ibrahim is from Sudan, a recent graduate of the University of
Aberdeen with an LLM in oil and gas law.

The <http://www.sudantribune.com/Darfur-JEM-scoffs-at-Bashir-s,41108> death
of Khalil Ibrahim, leader of Darfur’s biggest rebel group, has prompted
legitimate curiosity about the region’s future, albeit by asking the wrong
questions. Too many have framed the impact of his death in terms of what it
means for the peace process in Darfur, when in fact, it never meant anything
for the peace process due to the fundamental opposition of the Justice and
Equality Movement (JEM) to what it perceives as an already dysfunctional
framework. If anything can be gathered from the death of Ibrahim, it is
perhaps the diminishing role of this armed movement in future, as a result
of its loss of key alliances and visionary leadership.

Khalil Ibrahim was at one point an ‘insider,’ having served as state
minister in the White Nile state and North Darfur. His transformation from
bureaucrat to armed rebel was premised on the grounds that there could be no
development and progress in Darfur (or anywhere in Sudan) unless massive
constitutional and institutional changes were made in Khartoum. Though the
JEM doesn’t exclusively rule out a negotiated settlement, its uncompromising
philosophy and leadership has always made it a difficult party to negotiate

The armed groups that signed the Abuja Agreement in 2006 agreed with the
central government on three main 'pillars': wealth sharing, power sharing
and provisions regarding disarmament. The Abuja Agreement's provisions
resemble and are recycled by the JEM’s draft ‘proposal for achieving peace.’
However, the JEM’s attitude, as pointed out, isn’t concerned with the
substance of peace talks, but with who is on the opposite side of the
negotiating table. For Khalil Ibrahim, the government simply could not be
trusted. The failure of the government to disarm the Janjaweed, thereby
violating a key provision of the Abuja agreement, was a case in point and
probably interpreted as a fulfilled prophecy in the eyes of the JEM.

The peace process was never attractive to the JEM because in the Darfur
peace process, the word ‘peace’ itself had become warped. The government is
stubborn when it comes to both negotiation and implementation, mediators are
routinely under pressure to pay more attention to deadlines than the
substance and depth of agreements, and the rebel leaders that are willing to
negotiate often times opt for the comfort of a corner office and high
ranking political appointments in Khartoum. The average Darfurians were left
out of the equation long ago, though the JEM and Abdulwahid Nur's Sudan
Liberation Movement have been one of the few powerful factions left standing
that have not compromised their aims.

The likely future of the JEM without Khalil Ibrahim is fragmentation and
eventual disintegration, and this has been brewing in the background for
quite some time now. Two top figures in the JEM, Bahar Aldin Abu Garda and
Jibril Bari, accused Ibrahim of being undemocratic and despotic and left to
form their own movements . Bahar Aldin Abu Garda is now federal minister of
Health. In addition, during the Doha talks that paved the way for the Doha
Peace Agreement, Mohammed Hamdein, head of JEM-Kordofan sector, was
dismissed after being accused of showing too much interest in the Doha peace

Secondly, the loss of strategic advantage by the JEM meant the movement had
lapsed into terminal illness even before Khalil’s death. Now the centre of
gravity of the movement will have to shift to Uganda (whose relations with
Sudan are tense following alleged Sudanese backing of the Lord’s Resistance
Army) and South Sudan. Finding an ally might prove difficult as the movement
has lost both prestige and to some extent legitimacy after the signing of
the Doha Peace Agreement, and now its charismatic and well-connected leader
who may have been able to pull the necessary strings. Any alliance between
the JEM and South Sudan would be very vulnerable given that Sudan and South
Sudan may soon realise that neither of them can afford to keep poor
relations with each other permanently.

This was the only rebel group in Sudan’s history to bring the insurgency
into Khartoum, sending a clear message that ‘peace,’ as it is known in the
Darfur context, was the last priority on its agenda. Improving relations
between Chad and Sudan has meant the loss of what once was its key strategic
ally – a state with whom it had not only fraternal ties (Ibrahim and Chadian
president, Idriss Déby are both from the Zaghawa ethnic group), but had also
received refuge and support since its formation in 2003. Additionally,
regime change in Libya has also starved it of the tens of millions of
dollars that it used to buy the heavy weaponry and hundreds of vehicles that
made the ambitious campaign possible.

The sweeping changes the JEM proposes and its means of achieving them were
always at variance with Khartoum’s modus operandi of selectively applying
agreements so that its own power was left intact. The ‘peace’ process as we
know it will continue unaffected because the ‘peace’ defined by the process
was never what the JEM was after to begin with.


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