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Darfur Rebels say Khartoum Government Needs to Go - 2004-07-29

The Sudanese government has charged that the 16-month-old rebellion in Darfur is aimed at toppling the government. The rebel Justice and Equality Movement has implied as much, telling VOA that a regime change in Khartoum would be the best and the quickest way to end conflicts in war-torn Sudan.

On Tuesday, the Sudanese Embassy in Washington issued an angry statement accusing the Justice and Equality Movement of plotting with another eastern-based rebel group called Beja Congress to bring down the government in Khartoum.

Speaking to VOA by satellite telephone from Darfur, one of the top military spokesman for the Justice and Equality Movement, Colonel Omar Adam, says the Darfur rebel group met recently with Beja Congress members in neighboring Eritrea.

Colonel Adam says the talks focused on trying to find a political solution. But he says Sudanese rebel groups are becoming increasingly convinced that without a change in the leadership in Khartoum, civil wars will continue to plague the country.

"We believe that the best way to solve the Sudanese conflict, whether in the west or the south or in the east, is regime change because the Khartoum government is responsible for what's going on in Sudan," he said.

Despite government assurances that it is trying to disarm Arab Janjaweed militias in Darfur, an African Union monitoring team reports militiamen are continuing to loot villages and kill Darfur's black-African civilians.

Khartoum has denied allegations that it is arming and supporting the Janjaweed, which is accused of committing violence some U.N. officials and the U.S. Congress have described as genocide.

Since the rebel Justice and Equality Movement and Sudan Liberation Army took up arms against the government nearly 16 months ago, as many as 50,000 people are believed to have been killed in Darfur and more than a million made homeless.

In Washington, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Charles Snyder, says there is little doubt that the Arab-Muslim government in Khartoum has deep ties to the Janjaweed.

Mr. Snyder says he believes their relationship was forged precisely because of the threat the Darfur rebellion posed against the leadership in Khartoum.

"Forty percent of the Sudanese army draws itself from the Darfur region, so many people in the army sympathize with the rebels," he said. "There were instances in which you can make the case that the army even left a little ammunition behind. The result was they [government officials] turned to these Arab militias, which were, by and large now part of the Janjaweed processes, and released them with modern weapons, modern ammunition supply, and took an underlying ethnic problem between nomadic peoples and settled peoples, and put modern weapons and modern technology into it and the result was the humanitarian tragedy that you see today."

Meanwhile, Khartoum says it will soon release opposition Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabai from prison. Mr. Turabi has been detained since March on suspicion of stirring up the rebellion in Darfur and plotting to overthrow his long-time political rival, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Seven other members of Mr. Turabi's Popular National Congress Party, accused of helping the Islamist leader in the coup plot, were also released this week. No reason has been given for their release.

Many members of the Darfur-based rebel Justice and Equality Movement are former followers of Mr. Turabi. But Colonel Adam denies his group is involved in Mr. Turabi's affairs or those of his political party.