Darfur rebels boycott peace talks, target oil industry

Libyan authorities expressed pessimism as key Darfur rebel factions failed to show up for the peace talks with the Sudanese government at the Mediterranean port of Sirte. On the eve of the AU/UN-mediated talks, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Army Unity faction announced they would not attend. Another rebel commander, Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur, founder of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), also said he would not travel to Libya for the talks. (Reuters, Oct. 28)

Sudan declared a unilateral ceasefire as the talks opened Oct. 27, but a total of six rebel factions boycotted the conference, stating that “the Khartoum government does not have the necessary legitimacy to negotiate.” (Xinhua, Oct. 27)

In an unusual and slightly ironic development, the advocacy group Dream for Darfur reprimanded the Darfur rebels for attacks on oil infrastructure. The Defra oil field in Sudan’s southern Kordofan region was attacked Oct. 23 by JEM guerillas, who kidnapped two workers. “We deplore attacks against any civilians,” said Jill Savitt, director of Dream for Darfur. “Rebel movements are engaging in precisely the actions they claim to abhor when they attack innocents. In the search for peace in Darfur, such aggressive rights violations by leaders in the rebel movement will only serve to undermine the cause that unites all Darfuris.” (Sudan Tribune, Oct. 27)

The JEM said the attack was meant to send a message to foreign oil companies over the use of revenues from oil to underwrite Khartoum’s genocidal campaign in Darfur. “The latest attack is a message to the Chinese companies in particular,” JEM chief Mohamed Bahr Hamdeen told reporters, adding that they “are the biggest investors in the Sudanese oil industry.” Hamdeen said those abducted were contractors for the Schlumberger oil services company, a US-based contractor.

The JEM gave oil companies in Kordofan one week to leave the area. “We consider [all foreign oil companies] killers because they help the government buy the weapons which they use to kill women and children,” said Hamdeen. (Toronto Star, Oct. 26)

See our last post on Sudan.

  1. Darfur: camps being forcibly emptied?
    Some extremely ominous news from the BBC, Oct. 29, emphasis added:

    Darfur refugees ‘forcibly moved’
    Hundreds of refugees in Darfur are being forcibly evicted from a camp by Sudanese soldiers and police, a UN official has told the BBC. Men and women were loaded at gunpoint onto trucks at a camp in Nyala, the capital of south Darfur, said the official, who asked not to be named.

    The UN tried to intervene in the operation, which it described as illegal, but were prevented. Sudanese officials said the refugees were being taken to a safer camp.

    ‘Dangerous camp’

    The refugees were guarded by troops, police and Sudanese national security personnel, the UN official said.

    Armed with machine guns, sticks and rubber hoses, they packed around 50 refugees and their belongings onto each truck, as evening fell.

    The Sudanese officials told the UN the camp at which they had been living was dangerous, following tribal clashes. While the UN official said there was some truth to this, the forced relocation was illegal and dangerous to carry out at night.

    The governor of South Darfur has told the UN it is his intention to close the camps around Nyala, which are home to as many as 90,000 people.

    According to a British charity, the Aegis Trust, this kind of camp closure has been on the cards since June, when President Omar al-Bashir said he wanted to close what he called “these museums of despair“.

    Human rights groups fear forced relocation would open the way for ethnic cleansing.

    This could be the start of a long-term plan, to change the demographics of the region, under the noses, and in the presence of the United Nations, that won’t be able to do anything about it,” says Dr James Smith of the Aegis Trust. “It can get away with this kind of population movement, this illegal population movement, without firing a shot.”

    The fighting in Darfur has driven over two million people from their homes. The camps for the displaced have never been entirely secure, but under the eyes of the UN they have offered some sanctuary from attack.

    That may now be about to change.