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JEM Leader Khalil Ibrahim Talks to Asharq Al-Awsat - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your assessment of the security and humanitarian conditions in Darfur, especially in the wake of the statements made by Rudolf Adada, the joint representative of the United Nations and the African Union, and Martin Luther Agwai, the former commander of his forces, that the war is over in the district and that your movement is regressing?

[Ibrahim] First of all, the humanitarian conditions in Darfur are going from bad to worse. The constant cries and complaints of the displaced and the refugees can be heard clearly. But no one is doing anything to help, especially after the international organizations were expelled last March after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant to apprehend Omar al-Bashir, the leader of the regime. No educational or health services are available in the majority of the camps. The violence continues and the assassination teams that the regime is sending to kill the refugees on the Sudanese-Chadian borders and in the camps of the displaced in Darfur continue to operate day and night. None of the displaced or refugees can leave the camps for water or firewood because they will be killed by the gangs of the security and intelligence organ. This is happening every day despite the claims of the Joint United Nations/African Union Mission that it is safeguarding security. More than 100,000 people who fled one year ago from the Sali’ah and Burk regions of southern Darfur are facing real hardships in the camps. We the JEM managed to re-open more than 35 elementary schools in Jabal Mun. Nevertheless, we are facing problems in supplies. I appeal to the sons of Darfur and the regional and international organizations to resolve these problems.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about the reports that your movement is regressing?

[Ibrahim] This is not true at all. We are present and spread in Darfur and Kordofan and the regime in Khartoum knows this. The United Nations and African Union Mission (UNIMED) also knows this. We control about 2,000square kilometers in western, northern, and southern Darfur in addition to areas in Kordofan. What I am saying is not political propaganda. As for Adada’s and Agui’s statements, it seems that they have been paid for their disgraceful activities in the district. The government in Khartoum rewarded these two men by awarding the Two Niles Medal for their services that they had been doing while working in Sudan. In fact, reports say that Adada used to receive a salary of about $50,000 per month from the regime. Thus these two men cannot be impartial and objective under such conditions. It is also natural for a senior UN official that tasted an international position to show that he has a clean record even if it is through such false claims in order to be awarded a more senior regional or international post. On behalf of the JEM, I call on the United Nations secretary general to investigate the charges being brought against these two officials. I also call on the United Nations to review its policy in the district.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What do you think of the call that Al-Bashir made on the first day of the blessed Id al-Fitr [marking the end of the Ramadan month of fasting] to the armed movements to lay down their arms and sit at the negotiations table after Khartoum became convinced that these movements have regressed? Moreover, his deputy Nafi Ali Nafi stated that the JEM is no longer present on the ground.

[Ibrahim] This is a naïve and repeated call; there is nothing new in it. We are trying to remove Al-Bashir from office and what he is calling for amounts to a call to surrender. It also shows an arrogant and patronizing attitude and superficial thinking. We are calling for an end to the war through serious negotiations in order to reach a just and comprehensive solution or for Al-Bashir to leave. We have the ability to change his regime. Time is on our side. Every day, many in Darfur and Kordofan are joining us. We also have the arms and they are increasing thanks to the operations that we are waging against Al-Bashir’s forces. I assure you that Al-Bashir will eventually give in and give the people of Darfur and those that disfranchised their rights. We are thinking of expelling him from the rule. I do not attach any importance to what Nafi Ali Nafi says. He is a man of hollow heroics. Everyone knows where Nafi was when our forces reached the capital in Operation Long Arm. He should ask Adada (of course, when the media are not there) or mediator Jibril Basoli about our presence on the ground and about the territories we control. Why is Al-Bashir and Nafi busy digging trenches around the capital, Khartoum and planning and equipping militias to defend their regime in Khartoum if they are not afraid of the might of our movement and of its strong return once again to uproot their regime? The internal conflicts within the ruling clique demonstrate that the regime is in panic. Al-Bashir removed and relieved Security Director Salah Abdullah Qawsh of his duties. This panic and internal conflicts are the natural result of accumulated failures and defeats that JEM inflicted on them, from Omdurman to the Al-Kawmah region in northern Darfur.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] But the international community – especially the United States and its envoy to Sudan Scott Gration – is saying that the crisis in the district is about to be resolved. Do they all represent the regime?

[Ibrahim] Let me tell you something extremely important. There is an inclination by some in the international community that are engaged in the issue of Darfur to liquidate it. All those that say they are international mediators or special envoys to Sudan are now leaning toward freezing our people’s just issue and then liquidating it. The solution that these are seeking is a cease-fire in order to silence the guns through which we are asking for our rights. They are doing that in order to turn to the referendum in southern Sudan. Our position is firm and clear: We support the right to self-determination in southern Sudan. But these synthesized and deficient tendencies will not help our people in the south to achieve this historic right. The current divisive trend will strengthen the National Congress and reward it for its stalling tactics to buy time. But we tell them that our cause will not be lost. We will not let them turn our cause into a buying and selling affair. We will not remain silent on the bargaining in which these people are engaged.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your opinion on the moves of President Obama’s envoy?

[Ibrahim] It seems that Obama’s envoy Scott Gration does not have a program or a strategy for a solution. We were optimistic when US President Barack Obama came to office. Three years ago, we were in disagreement with the Administration of former President George W. Bush. This disagreement has been going on since the Abuja negotiations in 2006 during which the Bush Administration tried to impose sanctions on us. So, we felt optimistic when the current President came. However, the slogans that he is raising are misused by those in charge of the Darfur issue in the US Administration (Gration). He refuses to deal with us in a way that would resolve the crisis. We do not think he is trying to find a solution to the issue. His main preoccupation is the referendum on the right to self-determination of southern Sudan. All the statements that he makes about Darfur are no more than public relations and courtesy statements. It seems that he is not viewing the Sudanese issue in a comprehensive manner. That is why we call on the US Administration to appoint a special envoy for Darfur. We want this person understand all the dimensions of the Sudanese problem and not misuse the capabilities and influence of the United States. We would like this person to listen to those directly involved in this issue in order to be able to contribute to solving the issue from its roots. As you know, Gration recently created new movements under the pretext of unifying them. He is also asking for the involvement of the tribes and the so-called civic society organizations in the negotiations. Gration’s approach is based on the tribe and would lead to division and a fresh civil war. I can say that Gration should listen more to those that are knowledgeable about the issue of Darfur. It seems he is listening to people that are not closely familiar with the issue or are not related to the issue at all. It is important now that there are influential sides in the current US Administration that have experience and sympathize with our issue. This represents our hope in bringing the change that Obama is leading. We are prepared to cooperate with them in order to solve this issue.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you oppose the unification of the movements that came up recently in Tripoli, Addis Ababa, and Cairo? What is your opinion on the regional initiatives that have been put forward to solve the problem of Darfur?

[Ibrahim] On the contrary, we call for the unity of the people of Darfur. We want them to have a clear agenda in the negotiations and a united position. More than 20 movements have merged with ours; that is why we called our movement the new JEM. But what is happening in the capitals you mentioned is not related to the unification of the movements at all. The groups that were in Tripoli and elsewhere are individuals that do not represent any movement. Some of them belong to the Sudanese security and intelligence apparatus. We emphasize that the next negotiations should be confined to the government and a unified opposition. It is not realistic at all to have more than 40 movements coming to the negotiations table to sign an agreement. I d not know what kind of agreement can be signed by such a number that call themselves movements. Who will be responsible for implementing the agreement if it is signed? What some countries and mediators are doing is a waste of time. It will lead to the liquidation of our people’s issue if we are not careful and alert. We will not allow this to happen. We do not want these countries to settle scores and their regional conflicts at the expense of our people’s issue. We appeal to them to unify their efforts and stands in order to reach a popular and negotiated just and comprehensive solution.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Minni Arko Minnawi, the Sudanese president’s assistant and a former rebel in Darfur, described your movement as Nazi and fascist and that you are seeking to remove the others. What is your response to these charges?

[Ibrahim] Minni Arko does not even know the meaning of Nazism and fascism. He is accusing us of things he does not even understand and he should be the last person to talk about our human rights record. The JEM is known far and near for its clean human rights record. It has a regular army and institutions that are governed by strict laws and clear bylaws that are based on international charters and the customs of our people. We are not a militia like Minni Arko. The people of Darfur are familiar with his violations of human rights and the Qaridah region in northern Darfur stands witness to this. We area national movement that stretches in the various districts of Sudan; we are not confined to just one district. We are supported by many tribes while Minnawi is surrounded by individuals that are defending his position for which he sold the cause of Darfur. He has become a mercenary while we are fighting for the interests of all of Sudan. Last May when our forces entered Omdurman, the Sudanese intelligence service sent Minni Arko Minnawi to claim that he had left the rebellion once again. He began to tour the district and lied by saying that he joined the JEM in order to prevent our people and their forces from scoring victories against those on whom he relies for a living. However, his plans failed. I advise him to be silent. That would be better for him after he turned into a mere petty informant carrying news and information to the security apparatus in Khartoum. We recall incidents from Minnawi’s shameful record when he killed 72 people in the area of Kurma in northern Darfur in July 2006as well as in the areas of Tawilah, Muhajiriyah, and the infamous Qaridah massacre that is still being investigated when citizens disappeared, including the king of Ambru district. Minnawi is now working as an informant against the Chadian opposition.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Will you movement participate in the negotiations with the Sudanese government in Doha – as has been announced by the mediators -as well as in a workshop before the negotiations begin?

[Ibrahim] First of all, we will not participate in that workshop and we will participate in the negotiations if they are serious. But it is unacceptable to mobilize disputing groups created by this or that side and under various names, and to mobilize tribes and civic society organizations. Most of these groups are seeking to book one-way tickets to the negotiations and then return to Khartoum because they are not talking about any other possibility except the negotiations. They did not propose other options in case the negotiations failed. The government wants such groups in order to absorb them and thus evade paying the dues of a comprehensive solution to the issue. We will not become involved in such a bazaar and we will not participate in it because these negotiations are doomed to failure before they even begin. But it is important to affirm that peace is a strategic option for us. As evidence, we have inaugurated the Doha forum out of our desire to bring peace. As to whether we will participate or not, this depends on the seriousness of the mediators, the nature of the mediation, and the parties that will participate in the negotiations. We emphasize the participation of the sides that are fighting on the ground. At any rate, our delegation has informed the mediators about our stand. We are waiting to see which direction the mediation will take.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your opinion on the report on Darfur issued by the Committee of African Wisemen chaired by Thabo Mbeki and on the leaks about the formation of a mixed tribunal to bring justice to Darfur?

[Ibrahim] The committee of Thabo Mbeki, the former president of South Africa, is not neutral. It was formed by Al-Bashir and a number of African heads of state to save him from the trial of the International Criminal Court. Mbeki’s committee is looking for a solution to Al-Bashir’s crimes in Darfur. Perhaps you are aware that the suggestion made by the committee to establish a mixed tribunal is nonsense and “an insult to our intelligence”. Are these more just than the International Criminal Court that is governed by legal standards on which most of the countries of the world have agreed? Where were these when the genocide was going on? Why did they not save the people of Darfur from the genocide? Why are they appearing on the scene now when they were silent all this time? When Mbeki was the president of his country, he refused three times to receive delegations from our movement to explain to him our cause. What is new that Mbeki has seen to come to Darfur? We know that he has special interests with Al-Bashir and he is now being paid for his services. We will reject any recommendations made by Mbeki’s committee because it is not neutral and its goals are against the interests of our people.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] There is now a call to hold a conference in Juba for all the political forces. Have you been invited? What is your opinion on the elections that will be held in April and that will include Darfur?

[Ibrahim] We have a good relationship with all the political forces in Sudan, especially with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement [SPLM] with which we coordinate constantly. But we do not know whether they will tolerate our presence in that conference or not. We were first invited to participate and our movement designated three representatives to participate in the conference. But the SPLM changed its mind for reasons that are not convincing to us. This conference could have been a historic opportunity for collective national action by all the political forces in the country to produce alternatives for the salvation of our people. We are unfortunately worried that this opportunity may be lost. It is known that many issues that will be discussed at the conference represent common denominators among us all. We are the ones carrying arms and the opposition political forces. We do not want to divide the issues of the homeland because the issue of Sudan in Darfur cannot be separated from the other issues, such as the population census, the laws restricting freedoms, democratic transformation, freedoms, and holding the elections. It is high time we view our issues in a comprehensive manner. Thus we expect the National Congress to put pressure on us and to blackmail us because it is strongly sensitive to the participation and activities of the JEM with others. But let us wait and see what the coming days will bring. As for the upcoming elections, the results are well known they are even held because the forgery has already begun. In fact, the results of the elections are ready now to be proclaimed by the regime that forged the population census and we have a list for the years 1993 – 2008. The government has raised the percentage of the population in the north, south, and west of Darfur. It has reached 459 percent and 490 percent. This is blatant forgery and their intentions are obvious. The present state is a police and security state and the so-called elections will be futile because the National Congress is looking for legitimacy to confront the International Criminal Court and it is resorting to forgery for this reason. Anew crisis will be created in the country if the elections are held under the control of the National Congress and the present laws restricting freedoms and it will not contribute to a solution. We will see whether they can hold the elections in Darfur. Therefore, I am calling for the unity of all the political forces, especially the SPLM, to form a transitional government to bypass Al-Bashir and his clique. This would be the true change because elections with the gang of the National Congress are useless. If Al-Bashir and his gang remain in power and continue with their repression I expect a comprehensive war in Sudan.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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