Sunday, May 11

Darfur rebels reach Khartoum

The Justice and Equality Movement, the strongest of the Darfur rebel factions, reached Sudan's capital Khartoum yesterday, or at least its twin city across the Nile, Omdurman. It's the first time the conflict has reached Khartoum. Government forces appear to have driven out the rebels for now, and Sudan has cut off diplomatic ties with Chad, which it accuses of supporting the JEM. (Chad's government, meanwhile, accuses Sudan of sponsoring the rebels that nearly toppled it in an attack on the capital Ndjamena in February). Here's the latest from Reuters, who appear to have the best international coverage so far. And here's what some folks are saying:

Suleiman Sandal, JEM's deputy chief of staff:
We attacked Omdurman yesterday and we took over all Omdurman and besieged the Sudan government troops. We've been fighting in Darfur for five years and no one is listening to us. We are determined to bring war to Khartoum
Omar al-Beshir, Sudan's president:
I would like to assure people that everything is now under control, the rebel forces have been totally destroyed.
Abdel Haleem al-Mutafi, governor of Khartoum State:
We have lots of wandering defeated fighters ... and we are chasing them and we don't want civilians to get caught in the cross fire.
These forces came from Chad. They were trained and are supported by Chad. Therefore we hold the Chadian regime fully responsible for what happened and maintain our right to respond to this crumbling regime which does not represent the will of the Chadian people...We are forced to sever diplomatic relations with this outlaw regime and maintain our right to respond to this regime.
Amjad Attallah, Save Darfur Coalition:
It seems that at least in part this is payback for the NCP's support for rebels in Chad who almost topped the government there in February
Mahamat Hissene, Chad's communications minister:
The government denies any involvement in this adventure which it condemns without reservation irrespective of whoever is responsible.
Eltahir Adam Elfaki, chairman of JEM's Legislative Council:
We have defeated them in so many operations. And we are more than sufficient with equipment than to get if from Chad. Chad has nothing to do with this. It's only a Jem operation
Unnamed U.S. official, quoted by NYT:
Was this a coup? I wouldn't go that far. But this was a serious incursion.
Salva Kiir, president of the semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan, and head of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, former southern rebels now sharing power with the north:
Darfur is a political issue and should be solved through negotiations, and expediting them
Salva Mathok, chief of staff of the Sudan People's Liberation Army:
We are on standby. Khartoum is our capital city and we will not accept anything that will ... undermine our constitution.
Sean McCormack, spokesman for U.S. State Department:
These actions undermine the ongoing efforts of the international community to support resolution of the conflicts in Sudan
Andrew Heavens, Reuters correspondent/blogger:
Khartoum has always managed to stay insulated from most of the really horrific stuff going on in the country, particularly in Darfur. When we first arrived, I lost count of the number of people who assured us that is was “the safest city in Africa”. That reputation has taken a hit in recent months with the worries about an upsurge in terrorist activity. After today, that reputation is dead and buried. For the first time, Darfur has come to Khartoum.


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