Darfur: JEM denies ceasefire

Big news is that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has brokered a ceasefire in Darfur. The small news is that no, he really didn’t. And maybe, contrary to media portrayals, the JEM is correct not to take the bait, given that previous “ceasefires” have only co-opted Darfur’s guerilla resistance into instruments of the Sudan regime’s ethnic cleansing. From AP, Jan. 12:

A rebel group in Darfur denied today that it agreed to a cease-fire with the Sudanese government during a meeting this week with Governor of New Mexico, Mr Bill Richardson.

The cease-fire was “probably made for public consumption as we have not been officially consulted in that regard,” said Abdullahi el-Tom, a leader of the Justice and Equality Movement rebel group.

Richardson, who was in Sudan on a mediation mission this week, issued a joint statement Wednesday with President Omar al-Bashir saying both sides in the Darfur conflict had agreed to a 60-day cessation of hostilities while they work toward lasting peace.

Richardson insisted today that the Sudanese president and rebel leaders “made a clear commitment to a 60-day cease fire.”

“Nonetheless I do expect glitches like this down the road,” Richardson said in an e-mail.

In a statement, the Justice and Equality Movement said its delegates met with Richardson for 30 minutes and that was too brief to reach a truce.

A truce “cannot be obtained as long the government continues in its escalation of violence, aerial bombardment, burning of villages and armament of janjaweed,” the rebel group added, referring to Arab militiamen accused of atrocities against civilians in Darfur.

More than 200,000 people have died in Darfur and 2.5 million people have fled their homes since rebels from the region’s ethnic African community took up arms against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum in February 2003, accusing it of long-standing neglect and discrimination. The U.N. accuses the government of arming the janjaweed, which is blamed for the bulk of the atrocities. Khartoum denies the allegation.

The JEM also dismissed the government’s announcement Thursday that it was willing to hold new talks with the JEM and other rebel groups that refused to sign a peace agreement in May.

The government and one rebel group signed the deal, while other rebel factions said it did not give enough guarantees or properly compensate people in Darfur for years of suffering.

Delegates from another rebel group that met with Richardson said they would accept a cease-fire if the government respected it. “When the government is serious we have no problem,” said rebel Col. Abul Abdallah Ismail of the Sudan Liberation Movement, one of Darfur’s many splinter factions.

See our last posts on the politics of the Sahel and the crisis in Darfur.