The African Union said it took the decision to evict holdout rebels from its HQ after the Sudanese government declared the non-signing groups "terrorists" and told the AU it could not guarantee the safety of the representatives in AU camps. - Reuters' Opheera McDoom
/Scotsman report 17 Aug 2006 - excerpt:
Darfur rebels accused the African Union on Thursday of supporting what it said was government aggression against them by evicting them from homeless camps in Sudan's remote western region.
Only one of three rebel negotiating factions signed an AU-brokered peace deal for the region in May and on Wednesday the AU evicted officials from factions which did not join up.
Prior to May's deal, the pan-African body employed representatives of all three groups to help investigate violations of a shaky truce agreed in 2004.
The AU said it took the decision after the government of Sudan declared the non-signing groups "terrorists" and told the AU it could not guarantee the safety of the representatives in AU camps.
"Given the far-reaching implications of that decision, and the fact that (The AU) did not want to expose the personnel of these movements to any personal risks, it had no other option than to suspend their participation," the AU said in a statement.
But Khalil Ibrahim, leader of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), which did not sign the May deal, said the AU decision was "legitimising this aggression from the government side against us".
"By doing so the AU is terminating the ceasefire agreement of April 2004," Ibrahim told Reuters from Paris.
The move could hinder investigations of truce violations as AU troops may not be able to travel safely in areas controlled by the two factions that did not sign the peace deal.
The humanitarian truce in April 2004 was agreed by all rebel groups and the government to allow aid agencies to access those in need. UN officials called Darfur the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
JEM and some other non-signatories formed a new alliance called the National Redemption Front which attacked the town of Hamrat al-Sheikh in Kordofan neighbouring Darfur in June.
The government reacted by attacking their positions in Darfur, the NRF and the AU said.
JEM's Ibrahim said the truce was legally binding in Darfur alone and not in any other parts of Sudan, so they were not violating the truce with the attack on Hamrat al-Sheikh.
[Note, the report tells us that JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim is now in Paris, France. How does he afford his lifestyle, does anybody know?]