Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Dr Khalil Ibrahim, leader of the Justice and Equality Movement [JEM], the largest rebel movement in Darfur, said that attempts to prevent him from entering the areas that his forces control in Darfur will not succeed. On Friday, the Sudanese authorities sought to persuade Libya to expel him from its territories and prevent him from entering the movement’s stronghold through Libyan territories.
Libya refrained from commenting on reports that Dr Khalil Ibrahim is staying in a hotel in the capital, Tripoli. However, Libyan sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that intensive contacts are currently under way between Tripoli and Khartoum to resolve this crisis.
After the JEM leader was prevented from joining his forces through Chad, he resorted to Libya at a time when several international and regional parties are trying to persuade him to go to Doha to resume negotiations with Khartoum. Meanwhile, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is pressing hard to convince Libya not to allow him to cross into Darfur through its territories.
Sudan has asked all neighboring states not to host Khalil, and Al-Bashir placed a telephone call to the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, two days ago. The call came only two days after the Sudanese presidency minister, Staff Lieutenant General Bakri Hasan Saleh, conveyed a written message from Al-Bashir to Al-Gaddafi when he met with Libyan Prime Minister Dr Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmudi.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, official spokesman for JEM Ahmad Hussein Adam quoted Dr Khalil Ibrahim as saying that Libya and its leader, Al-Gaddafi, stand at the same distance from all Sudanese parties. He called on Qatar to reconsider its stand on the negotiating forum to resolve the Darfur crisis.
The Libyan authorities have not officially announced that Khalil arrived in Libya, but he was expected to have met with Col Al-Gaddafi, current president of the Arab summit, late Friday night.
It seemed that Khalil, who has close ties with the Libyan leadership, did not want to excite the Libyan leadership by making statements to the media from the Libyan territories. Since he was compelled to return from Chad, he has refrained from issuing any statements.
But official spokesman for JEM Ahmad Hussein Adam, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat from London by telephone, quoted Dr Khalil Ibrahim as saying that he did nothing wrong against Chad or its people and that he regards the Chadian people, who host more than 300,000 Sudanese refugees, with great respect.
Khalil Ibrahim added: “We will not give up the people’s rights. In spite of the way they deal with the movement, they cannot blackmail it.”
He continued: “The Qataris must reconsider their stand on being neutral and not siding with any party. If they truly want the movement to be present at the forum [of negotiations], they must work with others to facilitate my return to the field.”
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Adam also quoted Dr Khalil Ibrahim as saying: “Consultations with Egypt are continuing, and I am sure that Egypt will support the peace process if it is serious.”
Commenting on the relations with Libya, the JEM leader said: “We highly value the stand of leader Al-Gaddafi as a noble stand. He shows that he stands at the same distance from all parties to the conflict in Sudan.”
For his part, Adam told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Even though the movement leader, Dr Khalil, is away from the filed, his morale is high and excellent, and the movement runs its affairs in his absence very wisely. There will be no negotiations in Doha before he returns to the field in Sudan.”
Adam added: “(Sudanese President) Al-Bashir will be wrong to think otherwise. It must be made easy for Dr Khalil to return to Sudan to consult with his forces and leaders.”
Adam noted that Libya plays a positive role in the efforts to resolve the Darfur crisis and that its role makes it incumbent on it to be impartial.
Adam emphasized that the JEM leader’s return to consult with his leaders is a legitimate demand. He said the movement’s leader cannot take any decision unless he consults with the various military and political leaders on the ground.
Expressing confidence in the Libyan stand, Adam said: “Dr Khalil visited Libya many times, and it is only natural for him to be there for consultation. I do not believe that Libya, which knows what is truly happening, will fulfill the Sudanese Government’s demands in this respect.”
Adam said the ruling regime in Sudan currently lives in hysteria and suffers internal divisions. He added that the Sudanese authorities began to launch a campaign against the JEM leader to coincide with a new military campaign in Darfur.
He said: “When we went to Egypt, they caused an uproar, and we understood that they have contacts with some of the states in the region in this regard. They thought that the movement’s strength lay in one place, in the Mountain of Mun, before they discovered that we had changed our tactics and established a large [territorial] depth in Darfur and Kurdufan.
Meanwhile, Arab and African sources based in the Chadian capital, N’Djamena, told Asharq Al-Awsat that there are signs of unease within the Chadian Army as a reaction to the Chadian authorities’ expulsion of Dr Khalil Ibrahim. These sources said military officials yesterday presented Chadian President Idriss Deby with a written note criticizing this action and demanding to redress the situation.
The sources said this crisis will not pass easily and added that President Deby is coming under intensive pressure because of the bad and improper treatment of the JEM leader who belongs to the Zaghawah Tribe to which the Chadian president belongs.
The sources said that the brother of President Idriss Deby, Sultan Timan, who at the same time is the cousin of Dr Khalil, is very angry over what happened. The sources added that he believes the situation must be redressed, given the influence that the Khalil tribe and JEM wield.
The sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Khalil did not allow his supporters, who rallied to receive him as his plane attempted to land at the N’Djamena Airport, to storm the airport and take him out by force in spite of the Chadian authorities’ rejection. The sources said that the supporters of Khalil, who came riding about 300 vehicles, sought indeed to storm the airport but Khalil asked them, through delegates, to disperse and refrain from carrying out any action against the Chadian forces.