Through a combination of robust military blows and targeted diplomacy the Sudanese government has managed to cordon and de-teeth the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) to a point of relative despair, such that JEM addressed the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, and the Joint AU-UN Chief Mediator for Darfur, Djibril Bassolé, on Tuesday asking the two to intervene in facilitating the return of JEM leader, Khalil Ibrahim, to Darfur! The AU-UN mediation team is more interested in shipping him off to Doha to complete a mired ‘peace process’ kicking and screaming.
Evidently the rapprochement between Chadian and Sudanese governments last January marked a turning point in the fortunes of JEM. It lost its major ally and its support and operations base. The Sudan government was quick to table a framework agreement in Doha that both parties signed in April, at a time when the Chadian president was unequivocally demanding JEM to ‘get lost’ and clear Chadian territory. JEM signed but returned shortly with the demand to delay the April elections till culmination of a peace ‘deal’, signifying its will to participate in the electoral process as a political movement seeking a chunk of the national cake. The government, sure of its leverage, refused adamantly, telling JEM to sign or resign. JEM threatened loudly to sabotage the election in Darfur, but could not deliver, exposed as it is with no back-cover or safe line of supplies. Effectually JEM fighters were sandwiched in Western Darfur pushed from Chad into the clutch of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). JEM negotiators unilaterally withdrew from the Doha talks early May, accusing both the Qatari and the AU-UN mediators of partiality, a step that alienated the movement further in an international atmosphere not particularly sympathetic to the former mujahideen turned liberation fighters. The opportunity was not one to lose, the ceasefire agreement notwithstanding, and SAF was quick to take over the JEM stronghold in Jebel Moon (West Darfur), demonstrating to the world military upper hand. Peace lovers around the world grumbled but the Sudanese government received no official scolding, rather tacit approval. With JEM and the Chadian rebels in shambles thanks to trans-border Sudanese-Chadian cooperation the Chadian government could afford to be more affirmative in its rebuke of JEM. Consequently a beleaguered Khalil Ibrahim was refused passage through Chad, a regular station, into Darfur and forced under international spotlights back to Libya.
The AU-UN Joint mediator is expected to meet Khalil Ibrahim in Tripoli to discuss the prospects of negotiations. In Khartoum, security forces locked up the assumed guru behind Khalil, PCP leader Hasan al Turabi, on the 15th this month; an aggressive flirt that JEM has responded to, may be, with the release of captured SAF soldiers, 63 this Sunday and 44 last week. ‘Brothers’ as they are, the two factions of the Sudanese Islamic Movement are talking to each other in a language that does not necessarily mean what it says.