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[Dehai-WN] (Reuters): Darfur's strongest rebel group elects new chief

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Thu, 26 Jan 2012 18:51:25 +0100

Darfur's strongest rebel group elects new chief

Thu Jan 26, 2012 9:43am GMT

By Khalid Abdelaziz and Alexander Dziadosz

KHARTOUM Jan 26 (Reuters) - A rebel group, the strongest in Sudan's Darfur
region, will press efforts to overthrow the country's Arab-dominated
government after electing the brother of its slain leader as chairman, an
official said on Thursday.

Last month, government forces killed Khalil Ibrahim, head of the Justice and
Equality Movement (JEM), dealing a heavy blow to Darfur's nearly decade-long
insurgency in which hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have
been killed.

Some political analysts questioned whether JEM - seen by as the most
militarily powerful of Darfur's various rebel groups - might splinter into
rival factions after Ibrahim's death.

JEM's spokesman Gibreel Adam Bilal played down that possibility, saying over
100 of the group's leaders from inside and outside Sudan met in the South
Kordofan state on Jan. 24 and 25, and elected Ibrahim's brother as their new

An alliance known as the Sudanese Revolutionary Front between JEM and other
insurgents in Darfur and two border states would also continue, he said.

"The leaders elected Dr. Jibril Ibrahim as chairman of the Movement, and
decided to continue on the same route to depose the government and
coordinate with the Revolutionary Front to achieve this goal," Bilal said by
satellite phone.

The conflict in Darfur began in 2003 when mostly non-Arab rebels took up
arms, complaining the central government had economically and politically
marginalised the region. Khartoum mobilised troops and mostly-Arab militias
to quell the unrest.

International efforts to broker peace in the region have so far faltered,
hindered by fighting and rebel divisions.

In July, Sudan's government signed a Qatar-sponsored peace deal with the
Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), an umbrella organisation of small
rebel groups. JEM and other insurgents - including two factions of the Sudan
Liberation Army (SLA) - refused to join.

Rabie Abdelati, a senior member of Sudan's ruling National Congress Party,
said he hoped JEM's new leader would be more willing to negotiate.

"The government is hoping that the next phase will be the phase of peace and
not the phase of war," he said.

"They can reach peace and we can also reach peace, but this will not happen
unless they put down arms and come to the negotiating table."

As many as 300,000 people may have been killed in the Darfur conflict, the
United Nations has said, although accurate estimates are hard to obtain.
Khartoum has put the toll at 10,000.

While violence has died down, law and order have collapsed in some areas and
attacks by criminals, militias, soldiers and tribal groups have continued in
recent years.

The International Criminal Court has charged Sudan's President Omar
al-Bashir with masterminding genocide and other crimes in the region,
accusations Khartoum dismisses as political. (Writing by Alexander Dziadosz;
editing by Elizabeth Piper)

C Thomson Reuters 2012 All rights reserved


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