KHARTOUM, Dec 9 (Reuters) – Sudan will open talks in Chad within days with a third rebel group from the remote Darfur region, Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said on Thursday.
The talks with the National Movement for Reform and Development (NMRD), which had no part in previous talks, will cover security and humanitarian issues, Ismail told reporters.
“The head of the (Sudanese government) delegation will be the minister of investment … and they will be in the Chadian capital N’Djamena,” Ismail said. “It is expected that the negotiations will begin in the coming few days.”
The talks would be separate from African Union-sponsored talks in the Nigerian capital Abuja with the two main Darfur rebel movements, which are due to begin on Friday.
The United Nations has said it is concerned that the NMRD has not signed any ceasefire agreements but has been undertaking military operations in the remote western region of Sudan.
Ismail said the NMRD, which split from the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in April, was mostly from the African Zaghawa tribe, the same as Chadian President Idriss Deby.
The group has been blamed for laying a land mine which killed two aid workers in Darfur in October.
The head of the government’s delegation to the Abuja talks, Agriculture Minister Majzoub al-Khalifa, said on Thursday he did not rule out the third rebel group joining the Abuja peace talks.
“We are going to start with the new rebel movement … in Chad,” he told Reuters in Khartoum. “We will start with the two rebel groups (in Abuja) but I cannot say what may happen in the future,” he said, asked if Khartoum would allow the NMRD to join the Abuja talks.
But JEM said the NMRD was not a rebel movement, simply a group of outlaws armed by Chad and it would not accept them as negotiating partners in Abuja.
“We don’t accept them. They are not a serious movement — they are just like Janjaweed,” the JEM spokesman for the Abuja talks, Ahmed Hussein Adam, told Reuters from London.
The Janjaweed are the Arab militias who have helped drive more than 1.8 million people from their homes in Darfur in the conflict of the past two years. The rebels says the Janjaweed have government backing but Sudan’s government calls them outlaws.
The government has said JEM threatened to withdraw from the Abuja talks if the NMRD joined.