Home | News    Sunday 18 May 2008

INTERVIEW: Darfur JEM chief determined on regime change; rejects ceasfire

By Wasil Ali

May 17, 2008 (WASHINGTON) — The leader of a Darfur rebel group that launched a daring attack on the Sudanese capital last weekend ruled out any ceasefire with Khartoum.

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Khalil Ibrahim, the leader of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) speaks during a meeting with United Nations-African Union Special Envoys for Darfur (Reuters)

"We are not going to stop fighting with the regime. They did not abide by the signed ceasefire agreement and we are not keen to have it now” Khalil Ibrahim head of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) told Sudan Tribune by phone from an undisclosed location in Darfur.

“We will not sign a new ceasefire unless a political accord is signed" he added.

JEM fighters mounted an assault on the Sudanese capital that took the government and international community by surprise. However the Sudanese government repulsed the attack and accused Chad of backing JEM in its attempt.

The JEM chief also lashed out at the international community accusing it of impotence on the Darfur crisis.

“We were waiting on the international community for two long years to put pressure on Khartoum to end the killing and oppression of Darfuris" he said.

“Unfortunately the international community is not serious in pressurizing Khartoum. Some of the world major players have security interests in Sudan while others have oil interests. All of them actually prioritize their interests to the interest and the rights of the marginalized people in Darfur and elsewhere in the Sudan" the JEM leader added.

Ibrahim was likely referring to the US and China as the countries with special interests in Sudan. China is Sudan’s biggest trading partner with huge investments in the east African country particularly in the oil industry.

The veto wielding country has blocked tougher international action against Sudan in the UN Security Council.

The US administration has been the most vocal country on the Darfur crisis and the only country to label it as genocide. However Washington has also maintained strong counterterrorism relations with Khartoum.

Many observers have said that the US counterterrorism cooperation with Sudan is holding back any meaningful action against Khartoum.

Salah Gosh, the head of Sudan’s National Security and Intelligence Service, told the Al-Ahdath daily last October that the cooperation with the US “helped avert devastating measures [by US administration] against Sudan”.

"We are not going to be like the Polisario Front which signed a ceasefire with the Morocco a while back and waited for the international community to achieve some of their political demands" JEM leader said.

Ibrahim also reiterated his determination to bring about a regime change in Sudan despite the casualties inflicted on his forces and vowed to attack the capital again.

"We have just attacked with the third of our troops. It was just a rehearsal for the attacks to come, and we continue to attack till we change this regime. They are not serious for peace. They killed 600,000 during five years and burnt more than 4,000 villages while continuing their violence on the ground after all the human and material losses they caused" he said.

"We have the full capacity to change this regime" he added.

Political Alliance in Sudan

The leader of JEM also called for a large front that incorporates Sudanese progressive forces sharing the same values of social justice with his movement.

"We are struggling for the legitimate political, economic and social rights of the marginalized Sudanese. This is not only about Darfur and we are not fighting to divide the country on religious basis" he said.

Ibrahim also hailed the position of the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) saying they did not condemn his attack on Khartoum.

"We call on the progressive forces, on the top of it the SCP, to reunite their efforts with us to achieve the state of justice and social equality".

The SCP issued a statement after JEM assault calling for a broad national agreement on resolving the Darfur crisis and criticized labeling by Khartoum of the rebel fighters “as Chadians”.

The SCP was the first Sudanese party to sign a political understanding deal with JEM in Asmara by the end of 2004, on the necessary redistribution of wealth and the legitimate demands of Darfur people for the development and political representation.

International experts also say more than 300,000 were killed and 2 million have been driven from their homes by the conflict in Darfur, a region that is roughly the size of France.