Newly-elected Darfur rebel chief: Sudan does not want dialogue
The Sudanese government has destroyed the climate for negotiations, the newly-elected chief of a key Darfur rebel group said on Thursday, and vowed to keep pushing for regime change.
"I don't think the government now wants to talk with us and they have completely destroyed the environment for negotiations," the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM)'s Gibril Ibrahim said by telephone from an undisclosed location.
Ibrahim, 56, was elected on Wednesday night to head the war-torn region's most heavily-armed rebel group after his brother, the former leader Khalil Ibrahim, was killed last month in what JEM said was an air strike.
Khalil's death has left JEM members wanting revenge, Gibril said in his first media interview since taking over the movement.
"I don't think the members of the Justice and Equality Movement... are in a position to speak about dialogue," he said.
Gibril also denied that his movement has fractured.
"JEM is never as united as it is today," he said, adding the government "is more scared of JEM than any other organisation in the world."
JEM and other rebel groups drawn from Darfur's ethnic minorities rose up against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government in 2003 and were confronted by state-backed Janjaweed militia in a conflict that shocked the world and led to allegations of genocide.
Gibril said JEM will follow the course set by his brother to seek "democratic" change in a mismanaged country run by what he called a clique.
"We are going to unite with other resistance movements," he said. "Our people our facing a lot of problems: marginalisation, deprivation of their rights."
In July, Khartoum signed the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur with the Liberation and Justice Movement, an alliance of rebel splinter factions.
But the JEM and two factions of Darfur's Sudan Liberation Army, which together with JEM represent the main rebel groups in the region, rejected the Doha deal.
In November, the holdouts formed a "revolutionary front" to overthrow the Khartoum government, teaming up with rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement - North. That group is based in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, contested regions bordering newly independent South Sudan.
Gibril said the Doha document fails to address the root causes of the conflict, and the government is not a reliable partner.
"The regime in Khartoum signs a lot of documents and doesn't go ahead in implementation," he said.
Among its provisions, the Doha deal, which covers about 100 pages, calls for a truth and reconciliation committee, a national human rights commission, $2 billion in government support for reconstruction and development, compensation for refugees, and affirmative action for Darfuris in government and military service.
The United Nations estimates at least 300,000 people have died as a result of the Darfur conflict, with about 300 killed in clashes last year.
The Sudanese government puts the death toll at 10,000.
Almost two million still live in camps for those displaced by the fighting, the UN says.