In the wake of JEM’s attack on Omdurman, a number of correspondents have urged closer, critical examination of the rebel movements. This is long overdue. In the last few weeks, the “movements”—more often than not, shifting collections of commanders rather than organised groups with clear platforms and principles—have continued to give proof that their concern, whatever it once was, is now more for themselves than the people on whose behalf they took up arms and whom they now purport to represent.
The abuses of Minni Minawi are by now well known—although still rewarded with an office in the presidential palace, a fancy if meaningless title, and respectful audiences with western leaders. JEM’s offensive needs no further comment. If it has been welcomed, anywhere in Sudan, I have missed it. In the ranks of the other “movements”, in the last few weeks, the original leader of the SLA, Abdel Wahid Mohamed al Nur, has refused to meet Suleiman Jamous of SLA Unity to discuss ways of working together for the good of Darfurians. (Let us not speak of rebel “unity”. It has never existed in Darfur, and never will.) Abubaker Mohammad Kado, formerly of Sudan security but now of SLA Unity, is again making trouble for Jar el Nebi Abdel Karim of G19. SLA Unity itself is beset by a divisive internal power struggle.
Such is the disintegration of the rebel movements, both organizational and moral, that some of the most committed rebel leaders are now arguing that the movements must be “sidelined”. The following are the words of one of these men, who will speak in his own name in his own good time. “Most of these rebel leaders are not looking at what they can do for Darfur. Everyone is speaking about his position and where he will be when peace comes. The rebels are not capable of leading the future of Darfur—even my own group. All are working against the future of Darfur.”
Darfur’s rebel movements initially gave many Darfurians great hope, despite their initial error of failing to embrace Darfurian Arabs, who feel equally abused by the regime in Khartoum. The movements must now make gestures of their own to “save Darfur”. If they do not, the international community must break the mould. In any future peace talks, once the immediate danger of conflagration is past, Darfur must be represented by a wide range of its sons and daughters—not just by unelected men with guns who have forgotten their dream.