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Rebels Withdrawal from Muhajiriya? Not So Fast

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Rebels Withdrawal from Muhajiriya? Not So Fast

Posted by Maggie Fick on February 3, 2009

Rebels Withdrawal from Muhajiriya? Not So Fast

Breaking developments in Muhajiriya, South Darfur: the region’s most significant rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement, or JEM, has announced the withdrawal of its troops from Muhajiriya. From the statement on JEM’s website:

The order is issued to ensure safety of citizens of Muhajaria town and in a positive response to kind appeals of the government of the United States of America and Mr. Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations.

JEM’s offer has several important caveats: it is conditional on UNAMID, the U.N./AU mission in Darfur, forces remaining in Muhajiriya (despite the Sudanese government’s request that UNAMID withdraw these troops) and on both Sudanese military forces and another rebel force withdrawing from the JEM-held town.

The Sudanese government was quick to reject JEM’s offer. Sudan’s foreign ministry spokesman, Ali al-Sadig told Reuters that the Sudanese army, “is determined to re-take Muhajariya by force.” JEM’s leader Khalil Ibrahim shot back, also telling Reuters, “If they [the Sudanese military] come back, we will come back.”

Meanwhile in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, Sudanese security officers prohibited UNAMID peacekeepers from flying to Muhajiriya today for a fact-finding mission. It remains intolerable for UNAMID to allow the government to control access, and it is impossible to imagine how UNAMID can actually protect civilians without freedom of movement for peacekeepers.

The situation in Muhajiriya poses enormous risks to the tens of thousands of Darfuri civilians in Muhajiriya and in nearby IDP camps, and shows no sign of cooling down. The international community, and in particular the Obama administration, must take action to prevent an all-out confrontation between the Sudanese government and the rebels.

John Norris contributed to this post.