"Marginalised majority" to reject bilateral deal, say Darfur rebels

26 November 2003 (IRIN)

The "marginalised majority" in Sudan, including rebel groups fighting against the government in the country's only remaining battlefield, Darfur, will not accept a bilateral peace agreement between the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), according to a Darfur rebel group.

"A deal between the SPLM/A and the government will not bring peace to Sudan," Dr Khalil Ibrahim, the exiled chairman of the Justice and Equality
Movement (JEM), told IRIN from France. "This agreement is not fair for the other regions. The SPLM does not represent the other regions, only the

Ibrahim told IRIN a peace agreement that excluded Sudan's other rebel groups could never be a "comprehensive agreement", and would instead lead to an escalation of fighting in Darfur and other areas. Fighting would "flare up" in eastern Sudan and Kordofan, he said, as rebel groups emerged
which felt their grievances were not being represented.

"After a peace agreement between the SPLM and the government there will be heavy fighting," said Khalil. "It will be a period of dictatorship
sponsored by the international community."

The JEM had already established some contacts with other groups, such as the Beja, in eastern Sudan, he said, and "was moving in the direction" of
a coordinated military response.

Various groups would try to topple the Sudanese government, led by President Umar al-Bashir, which would not be able to hold on to its limited power-base for much longer, he added. "The north is not just one entity; it is made up of five separate regions. Since 1956, we have been ruled by elites from the northern region, but we are the majority. The population of Darfur and Kordofan account for over 50 percent of the total population," he said. "Power will be taken over by the marginalised majority."

Numerous but unsuccessful calls have been made by the opposition in northern Sudan, as well as rebel groups, to allow broad participation in the peace talks taking place between the government and the SPLM/A in neighbouring Kenya. The two sides have said a comprehensive agreement can
be reached by the end of the year, following the next session of talks due to convene on 30 November.

Meanwhile, the conflict in Darfur has escalated steadily since the beginning of the year. Since February, fighting between government soldiers, mililita groups - which the government has been accused of supporting - and rebel groups has killed thousands of people and displaced about 600,000, with a further 65,000 to 70,000 fleeing to neighbouring Chad.

The JEM took up arms in February 2003 to fight against the long-term marginalisation of Darfur. Independent of the better known Darfur rebel
group, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A), it says it is fighting for an autonomous state within a unified Sudan, and equal sharing of power, resources and wealth.

"Our objective is to improve the quality of life for the whole of Sudan," said Khalil, adding that Darfur was "just a starting point". He said the JEM and SLM/A had similar objectives, but the JEM had "a broader base" with troops and supporters stationed in Kordofan and other areas.

Since mid-November, heavy fighting has reportedly taken place in western Darfur between the JEM, and the government and militia groups operating in the region.

According to Ibrahim many of the militias are from Chad, and are being paid by Sudanese elements to fight and loot Sudanese property.