September 26, 2010 (KHARTOUM) – Former Darfur rebel leader Minni Arcua Minnawi has relocated some 600 of his combatants to south Sudan, according to a local newspaper in Khartoum.
Leader of the Sudan Liberation Movement Minni Minnawi (AFP) The daily newspaper Al-Akhbar Sunday claimed it had learned from “authorized sources” that Minnawi had moved around 600 of his soldiers to south Sudan.
Minnawi is the leader of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), which is the only Darfur rebel group that signed the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) with the Sudanese government in Abuja in May 2006.
Under the DPA, Minnawi was appointed as a senior presidential assistant and served until April’s elections, from which his group abstained, due to its refusal to integrate its military forces into Sudan’s army.
Minnawi has been largely marginalized by the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), prompting him at one time to unofficially abandon his post and stay in Darfur for several months. His group frequently accused the NCP of breaching the term of the DPA.
The South Sudan region enjoys semi-autonomy and is ruled by the SPLM, which in 2005 signed a peace deal with the central government in Khartoum, ending decades of civil war between north and south Sudan.
However, Al-Akhbar’s report conflicts with another report published yesterday by the pro-government daily Akhir Lahzah on the SLM’s adviser Mubarak Hamid warning Darfur rebel groups against seeking to woo military support from the SPLM, saying that the attitude of the SPLM’s leadership toward Darfur has been “negative.”
Last week, rumors flew around the capital Khartoum that Minnawi was placed under house arrest after seeking to fly to Juba to meet other Darfuri rebel figures residing there.
However, Minnawi told the pro-government Al-Rayaam said that the reports were false and that he would be flying to Darfur’s three states next week with the purpose of brokering some tribal reconciliation agreements, particularly in Nyala, the provincial capital of south Darfur state.
The government in Khartoum has strongly opposed any attempts by south Sudan to get involved in Darfur. On July 18, president Al-Bashir publicly rejected an initiative by the SPLM to mediate between the government and Darfur rebel groups.
The Darfur conflict broke up in 2003 when rebel groups belonging mostly to African ethnicities in the region took up arms against the government in Khartoum, accusing it of marginalizing the region.
An abusive counterinsurgency by the government has triggered a tragic humanitarian situation. The UN estimates that the conflict killed 300.000 people and displaced more than 2 million.