JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim in Chad vows to topple Sudan's President Omar Al-Bashir
Source: The Times by Anthony Loyd in N'Djamena, Chad, Feb. 24, 2009 - excerpts:
Darfur rebel leader vows to topple President al-Bashir
The leader of the most powerful rebel group in Darfur said that his forces will redouble their efforts to topple the Sudanese Government the moment an international arrest warrant is issued against President al-Bashir.
“When this warrant comes it is, for us, the end of Bashir's legitimacy to be President of Sudan,” Khalil Ibrahim, chairman of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), told The Times. “We will work hard to bring him down ... If he doesn't co-operate with the ICC [International Criminal Court] the war will intensify.” [...]
Dr Ibrahim, who spoke to The Times in Chad, had just returned from a round of exploratory peace talks with a Sudanese delegation in Qatar last week, where officials from both warring parties signed a memorandum of goodwill and understanding.
“The [Sudanese] Government is unpredictable,” he said, seated in an orchard on the banks of the Chari River outside N'Djamena, the capital of Chad. “They never honour any agreement they sign.” [...]
A JEM delegation was invited to Washington for bilateral talks with US officials last month, and it was the only rebel group invited to the negotiations in Qatar — to the anger of rival rebel factions from the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA).
This, Dr Ibrahim maintained, was because since 2006 the SLA had fractured into 27 groups and that, like it or not, the JEM was the only cohesive presence on the battlefield posing a credible threat to Mr al-Bashir.
“JEM is fighting alone on the ground,” he said, “shouldering the whole issue because there are no other real movements on the ground.”
Western diplomats believe that the Qatari talks have little chance of success given the gap between the ambitions of the JEM - which include control of Khartoum and the transformation of Sudan into a federation of autonomous regions — and Mr al-Bashir's desire to cling to power.
Few major concessions were extracted from either side in Qatar. The rebel delegation turned down a request to sign a cessation of hostilities until their own list of preliminary demands had been accepted, which the Sudanese refused.
The only tangible concession was a commitment from each side to release prisoners of war. At the weekend Sudan released 24 rebels in response to the release of 21 government prisoners last week. The rebels said however that they will not return to Qatar for a second round of talks until all their men are free.
The fear among the international community is that the conflict will become a war of secession and will spread to neighbouring countries.
While the stated aim of JEM is to preserve the territorial integrity of Sudan it is equally clear that the rebels are ready to divide the country. “JEM is a national movement and we regard autonomy for the regions as a key to peace,” Dr Ibrahim said. “But if peace does not come quickly Kordofan [a province in central Sudan] and Darfur would have to form their own entity — Western Sudan — with the White Nile as its border. If there was no peace then this part would have to become its own country.
“We are not going to ask to control Darfur and Kordofan through peace talks if they [the Government] are not going to give it — we'll take it.”
Photo; JEM fighters in Darfur, Western Sudan (The Times)