|Although unified in their desire for an independent Darfur, the rebel groups
fighting the Sudanese government have been plagued by deep internal divisions
and power struggles.|
The region's many rebel groups agreed on Jan. 20, 2006
to join forces under the Alliance of Revolutionary Forces of Western Sudan, however,
several months later, the rebels still were negotiating with the African Union
and the Sudanese government through different leaders and factions.
are two main rebel groups within the alliance. The larger one, the Sudanese Liberation
Army/Movement, represents non-Muslim tribal Africans and is led by Minni Arcua
Minnawi and Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur.
The smaller one, the Justice and
Equality Movement, represents non-Arab Muslims, headed by Dr. Khalil Ibrahim Muhammad.
two divisions remain united in their opposition to Sudan, their motives developed
for different reasons.
The SLA/M grew out of an armed self-defense
militia formed by western Sudanese indigenous tribes.
Arable land in western
Sudan has long been a source of conflict between Arab nomads, who want to use
the land for grazing, and African tribes, who want to use it for farming.
a famine in 1987, an Arab alliance formed in opposition to the farming communities
of the African tribes, and in response, the tribes created militias for self-defense.
men now claim the presidency of SLA/M. Minni Arcua Minnawi, of the Zargawa tribe,
has long been recognized as the troop commander of SLA/M, and as of 2005 was elected
as its leader.
However, Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur, the longtime political leader
of SLA/M, has been the chief negotiator for SLA/M at peace talks
in Abuja, Nigeria, and also claims SLA/M's presidency.
But on March 6, 2006, 19 of SLA/M's leaders denounced Nur in a public statement:
"Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur is determined to go it alone to consolidate his
dictatorship and marginalize all the institutions of the movements in his drive
to carry out his narrow-minded personal agenda."
This split further
complicated negotiations in Abuja and a temporary leader of the SLM/A was appointed,
Nur's deputy, Khamis Abddallah Abakr.
Justice and Equality
In a 1989 coup, National Islamic Front leader Hassan
al-Turabi helped overthrow President Sadeq al-Mahdi, clearing the way for Omar
Hassan al-Bashir to take the leadership post.
Al-Turabi then incorporated
non-Arab African Muslims into the political system of Sudan.
reportedly tried to reduce his power, al-Bashir dissolved the government and purged
it of the non-Arab African Muslims who went on to form JEM.
dominated by Islam, the government of Sudan is accused by JEM of being discriminatory
and oppressive to non-Arabs. Statements from JEM's Web site accuse the government
of offenses, including taking land from African tribes, systematic rapes, destruction
of basic infrastructure such as water and electrical systems, and bombing of civilians.
The Web site also describes a complaint of both rebel groups -- attacks
on camps of internally displaced persons. It is in defending these camps, made
up mostly of non-Arab African Muslims and Africans, that the SLA/M and the JEM
often encounter Janjaweed militia, who sometimes plunder the camps taking livestock,
water and other resources, and sometimes women.
In January 2006, the two
groups issued a joint statement:
"The two movements have agreed to
join and coordinate all political, military and social forces, their international
relations and to double their combat capacity in a collective body under the name,
the Alliance of Revolutionary Forces of West Sudan."
presumably means that the two movements are operating under joint command, the
agreement was signed by Ibrahim Khalil Mohammad and Minni Arcua Minnawi, which
means that the faction of SLA/M still loyal to Abdul Wahed Mohammed el-Nur may
not be party to it, even though they have been taking part in peace negotiations.