A Darfur breakaway group signs a peace deal, cutting lifeline of the main rebel movements

Seleah, West Darfur, (Sudanow) – An efficient, albeit tiny rebel group, the Liberals and Reform Movement, has signed an agreement with the Sudanese government, sealing off a large frontline area with Chad against further incursions by main rebel movements, the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan liberation Movement.

 “This is a benchmark deal, it will deny (JEM and SLA) access (Chad and Libya),” the Governor of West Darfur state, Abdul Hakam Isaaq said in a briefing shortly before a few reporters flew to the remove area, some 1400 km west of Khartoum, and 75 km north of Geneina on the borderline with Chad.

 The Liberals and Reform Movement is a combination of two rebel groups that broke away from JEM and SLA, and are composed of elements mainly hailing from West Darfur’s Fur, Masalit, Misseriya, Falata, Gimir, Zagawa and other tiny tribes.

The strength of the group is its experience, agility and mobility, according to one of its military leaders. Its over 600 troops armed with light machinegun and mostly composed of young men in their early twenties, with vast knowledge of the terrain, had made it difficult to control.

 “I have been part of JEM since 2003, so we are not a group that is recently formed and brought here to sign this deal for publicity.“ said Sheikuldin Mahin, the negotiator who reached the agreement with the West Darfur Governor, Abdul Hakam said

 Mahin was part of the Doha negotiating team, under JEM leader Khalil. “We know what we are doing, we have seen how our people suffer and we know that JEM is not going to sign a peace deal to end their suffering “He argued, adding “it was high time this suffering ends”  

The deal which ends rebel activities in the area between Chad and northern areas of West Darfur was seen as a benchmark that would deny JEM and the SLA, a vital inlet to Libya.

 In addition to the military active 600, this rebel group claims to have additional 1500 elements that it draws its backing from, in this arid underdeveloped area of Seleah.

 When its diminutive and orator leader, Ibrahim Nasser, signed the document with local authorities sealing off the main sources of infiltration and arms seeping from Chad and Libya into the Darfur, not a single shot were fired from over a hundred armed men surrounding the ceremony area.

 Instead it was only women ululation that broke the silence, followed by the usual Muslim "Allah Akbar, Allah is great", and the suffocated throat clearing of two huge bulls slaughtered in celebration. The two sides have abided by their pledge that not a single shot will be fired except in defense of their area,  a vast arid region that extend to about 75 km north of Genaina, along the borderline between Sudan and Chad.

 The rebel Justice and Equality Movement, which was militarily active in the region, and the Sudan Liberation Movement, politically dominant, have lost one strong hold in Darfur, the Jabel Moon area, Mahin argued.

 In fact the field military commander of the movement Omar Ibrahim Abul-Gasim stressed that “we used to lead the military activities here. I can assure you that neither JEM nor the others can have any activities in the northern region of West Darfur any more.”

"This is the prelude for a good rainy season,” Dr Ghazi Salah Eddin Attabani, Sudan’s Presidential Advisor, and responsible for the Darfur Dossier .

 He stressed that such an agreement concluded by the local authorities with no one but Darfurians, did not mean the government was now veered towards local settlements, rather, he argued, “we are committed to each and every agreement signed. We will continue talks (outside Sudan), and we are at the same time ready to talk to any movement that wants to join the peace process inside the country… This particular achievement is not good only for the Sudan, but equally for its neighbors as well.”

 Most of arms coming from Chad or even from Libya are believed to have entered the country through west Darfur, 730km border long with Chad and 35 km with Central African Republic. Arms used to shift from Sudan to Chad and then from Chad to Sudan, and rebel troops used to shift freely from one country to the other.

 “I think this type of settlement is good for us both. This agreement was initiated a while ago, four six months, and since then there is no significant trouble along our borders and now traders are going freely here and there, “, Commissioner of Adre province in Chad, Nakour Allatchi, who crossed the border to attend the ceremony said.

 With massive presence of armed men, dressed in war fatigue, heads warped in dust soaked scarves, eye reddish goggling at the small ceremony stand by, surrounding the civilian population from the village of Seleah and it rural areas, hoping to see and end to their suffering, Mahin stressed that “our main concern has been to see that development is there. We want to have a real share in power as well, but our main concern is development.”

 In fact the Governor had told the gathering that the area of Jebel Moon of which Seleah, will be promoted from an administrative unit to a full fledge locality, bringing the crowd to a tumultuous jubilee, those riding camels, horses and donkeys racing around the congested filed where the ceremony was organized.

 “This” one man shouted “is what I call power sharing”