(By Radio Dabanga)
The Government of Sudan and the Justice and Equality Movement in Darfur have reached an agreement in Chad on how to achieve a comprehensive peace deal for Darfur. Besides a ceasefire, the government promised to stop the over hundred death sentences of people allegedly involved in the attack on Omdurman in 2008. The parties will continue the negotiations on Tuesday in Doha (Qatar). The JEM and Government signed a year ago — a very similar Goodwill agreement in February 2009 — but they failed to implement. Now president Omar Al Bashir promised to release one third of the prisoners immediately but did not mention the total number of detainees. The number of detained Darfurians in Khartoum is estimated between five hundred and several thousands. They were randomly arrested after the attack and were tried by a special court. The deal in Chad is made between the leader of the JEM, Khalil Ibrahim and the presidential advisor Ghaza Salah Aldin. The spokesperson of the JEM, Al Tahir al Faki confirmed the deal. He emphasizes that the agreement is about the peace process and is not yet a peace agreement. The framework agreement followed the statement by President Bashir on Sudan TV saying that he wants to ‘heal the war’. The JEM is militarily the most active rebel movement in Darfur. It is involved in heavy fighting that started last week in the Jebel Moon area North of El Geneina in West Darfur.
The deal between JEM and Government follows the agreement between Chad and Sudan to expel the opposing rebel movements from each other’s country. The opposition rebels of Chad are hosted by Sudan, while the JEM uses Chad as its operational and organizational hideout. Sudan moved the Chadian opposition movement already far from the border, allowing them to settle in for example North Darfur. The JEM has almost exclusively followers from the Zaghawa tribe. Some other similar factions have signed an agreement with the JEM. The JEM originates ideologically from the same Islamic movement as President Omar Bashir.
The other main rebel movement of the Sudan Liberation Movement of Abdel Wahid al Nur, who might have the largest popular support especially amongst the Fur people, is not involved in any kind of peace negotiations. His armed movement is gradually fracturing with reported fights last week amongst his own field commanders. Some of his field commanders are now openly opposing their leader’s refusal to have any negotiations with the Sudan government. A peace agreement between JEM and the government might isolate his movement further. In the coming week, the negotiations between JEM and Sudan government will start. Other factions united in the Tripoli group, the Sudan Liberation Movement Revolutionary Forces (SLM-RF) and the Addis Ababa group will also take part in the UN/AU-led negotiations. Until last week, the JEM refused to negotiate with the government unless it would be the exclusive part representing all Darfur rebel movements.
The peace negotiations might influence the presidential elections in April. Most Darfurian refugees and internally displaced people have not been registered as voters. They constitute between one third and half of the population of Darfur. Until recently the JEM supported the indictment of President Omar Al Bashir by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur.