August 1, 2007 (KHARTOUM) — Sudan said on Wednesday it would consider releasing elderly Darfur rebel Suleiman Jamous, who could be vital to a peace process after the United Nations approved a big peacekeeping force for the region.
Jamous, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) humanitarian coordinator, has been virtually imprisoned for 13 months in the South Kordofan region bordering Darfur. Khartoum has branded him a terrorist.
Foreign Minister Lam Akol said the question of Jamous had never been brought up by envoys from the United Nations and African Union, although U.S. envoy Andrew Natsios mentioned Jamous a couple of months ago but never referred to him again.
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ali al-Sadig said Sudan’s government assumed the United States had lost interest.
“We are ready to consider the situation,” he said. “We are ready to talk on the issue of Jamous.”
The U.S. embassy and African Union were not immediately available to comment. The U.N. mission declined comment.
The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday approved a 26,000 strong force to try to quell violence in Darfur.
Analysts say Jamous is crucial to uniting the military and political leadership of splintered Darfur rebel groups ahead of peace talks with the government.
Diplomats are trying to get a deal between at least a dozen factions at a meeting in Tanzania from Aug. 3 to 5.
Akol said the government was prepared to help the rebels unite, but had not heard a request to release Jamous from U.N. envoy Jan Eliasson or AU envoy Salim Ahmed Salim.
“We never heard from the special envoys…that there was somebody somewhere that was central to the peace process,” the minister said.
Jamous, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) humanitarian coordinator, was the main liaison between the world’s largest aid operation and rebels in Darfur, keeping looting of aid convoys down and humanitarian workers safe.
Last year the United Nations removed Jamous from Darfur to a U.N. hospital in South Kordofan without informing the government. The government warned if he left the hospital he would be arrested.
On Tuesday, 11 prominent international activists sent a letter to Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, appealing for the release of Jamous. The rebel urgently needs a stomach biopsy which cannot be performed in South Kordofan.