SUDAN WATCH: Darfur JEM rebels emerge as key to east Sudan peace

Friday, June 09, 2006

Darfur JEM rebels emerge as key to east Sudan peace

Sudan Tribune report June 8, 2006 excerpt:
Rebel group from arid eastern Sudan is due finally to start peace talks with Khartoum next week but the exclusion of Darfur-based Islamic rebels may bring yet more misery to the long-neglected region.

The Eastern Front, comprising rebels from the region’s largest ethnic group - the Beja - and Rashidiya Arabs, are taking part in the negotiations in the Eritrean capital on Tuesday 13 June.

But the meeting's outcome may be decided by the increasingly effective Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a moderate Islamist rebel group hitherto mainly active in the western region of Darfur, where it rejected a peace deal signed by the larger Sudan Liberation Movement last month.

The Eastern Front controls a slice of territory on the Sudanese-Eritrean border around the town of Hamesh Koreb and has been involved in low-intensity guerrilla activity against the Khartoum government for years.

While the Eastern Front has similar aims to its counterparts in Darfur - autonomy and greater control over their region's resources - their newfound allies in the JEM demand a seat on the presidency, key to eventual national power.

The latest attack, on a government convoy on May 2, is believed to have been carried out by the JEM alone.

Suliman Baldo of Brussels-based think-tank, the International Crisis Group, said that such attacks showed the JEM could thwart the peace process in the east if its demands were not satisfied.

"The attack on May 2 shows the potential for spoiler action in eastern Sudan, that there could be an even greater conflict because the government is not going to invite the JEM to negotiations in Asmara," he said.

"They may be inclined to do more operations like this."

A Western security contractor familiar with the situation said the JEM fighters in the area were also showing unprecedented expertise. Full report.


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