Civil war in Sudan: Jem rebels from Darfur join the military fight against RSF

by MMC
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  • By James Copnall and Danai Nesta Kupemba
  • BBC News


The Sudanese army has lost control of key bases in recent weeks

Two rebel groups in Sudan’s Darfur region say they will fight alongside the army in the country’s civil war.

This comes after the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) made significant progress in Darfur, where they have been accused of ethnic cleansing.

Rebel leader Gibril Ibrahim told BBC Newsday that they “want to defend their civilians” against the RSF, who he said had buried people alive.

He said the decision to join forces with the military was not easy.

The leader of the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem) said it took seven months to reach an agreement.

Relations between Jem and the Sudanese army are tense. Mr Ibrahim’s brother was killed by the army, who was previously the group’s leader.

Jem and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) took up arms in Darfur in 2003, accusing the government of marginalizing the region’s black African communities.

The government then mobilized Arab militias against them, leading to what has been described as the first genocide of the 21st century.

These militias have since transformed into the RSF, which has been fighting against the army for control of the country since April.

The RSF has captured several key towns in Darfur in recent weeks, including Nyala, the country’s second largest city.

RSF denied any responsibility for these killings, saying they were part of a “tribal conflict”.

A joint statement from Jem and the SLM read: “We announced the end of all neutrality and our participation in military operations on all front lines without hesitation.”

Jem and the SLM are no longer as strong as before, but their entry into the Sudanese civil war is significant.

Darfur’s two rebel leaders signed a peace deal in 2020 and have since been closer to the Sudanese army than would have once seemed possible.

It is possible that the JEM and the SLM will see their ranks swell with new recruits, thus increasing their importance on the Sudanese political scene.

By joining the battle now – after months of declared neutrality – they seek to defend their support base in Darfur, particularly the Zaghawa ethnic group from which the two men come.

They will also have concluded that an RSF victory would be disastrous for them and for Darfur.

Mr. Ibrahim expressed concern about RSF’s advances, saying he feared that Sudan would end up divided.

There are fears he will declare his own government in the poor, war-torn western region.

The international dimension is also important.

The Zaghawa are present in Chad as well as Sudan and dominate Chadian politics. Mr. Ibrahim and others have accused Chad of supporting RSF.

He hopes to be able to use his relationships, particularly with General Mahamat Deby, the Chadian leader, to cut all links between Chad and the RSF.

Read more about the conflict in Sudan:

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