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.