Su­dan rebels sus­pend talks af­ter chem­i­cal at­tack claims

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

KHARTOUM — A prom­i­nent Su­danese rebel group said on Fri­day it was sus­pend­ing peace talks with Khartoum af­ter a rights group ac­cused gov­ern­ment forces of us­ing chem­i­cal weapons against civil­ians in war-torn Dar­fur.

The Su­dan Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Move­ment — North, which is fight­ing gov­ern­ment troops in Blue Nile and South Kord­o­fan, this sum­mer signed a roadmap bro­kered by African me­di­a­tors to end con­flict in the two states.

But on Fri­day the SPLM-N said it would sus­pend talks with Khartoum af­ter Amnesty In­ter­na­tional ac­cused gov­ern­ment forces of un­leash­ing chem­i­cal weapons on civil­ians in Dar­fur state this year, killing up to 250 peo­ple.

Urg­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the sus­pected at­tacks, the rebel group in a state­ment an­nounced an “im­me­di­ate sus­pen­sion of po­lit­i­cal en­gage­ment with the Su­dan gov­ern­ment on all po­lit­i­cal mat­ters, in­clud­ing na­tional dia­logue and peace ne­go­ti­a­tions”.

It said Amnesty’s re­port showed a “new di­men­sion to the geno­ci­dal war in Su­dan, and as such, the peo­ple of Su­dan, the re­gional and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity should take it se­ri­ously”.

The sign­ing of the roadmap by SPLM-N along with two other rebel groups in Au­gust had raised hopes for a per­ma­nent cease­fire to be ne­go­ti­ated and hu­man­i­tar­ian aid to be de­liv­ered in Su­dan’s three con­flict ar­eas.

While SPLM-N is fight­ing in Blue Nile and South Kord­o­fan, two other rebel groups — the Jus­tice and Equal­ity Move­ment and the Su­dan Lib­er­a­tion Army fac­tion headed by Minni Min­nawi — are fight­ing gov­ern­ment forces in Dar­fur.

Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple have been killed and mil­lions dis­placed in the three ar­eas where ethnic mi­nor­ity groups have re­belled against Pres­i­dent Omar al-Bashir’s Arab-dom­i­nated gov­ern­ment.

In Dar­fur, at least 300 000 peo­ple have been killed since the con­flict erupted there in 2003, the United Na­tions says.

In Septem­ber, Amnesty said it had ev­i­dence of the “re­peated use” of sus­pected chem­i­cal weapons against civil­ians by Su­danese forces in Dar­fur’s thickly forested Jebel Marra area be­tween Jan­uary and Septem­ber this year.

Amnesty said that up to 250 peo­ple — many of them chil­dren — had been killed in these at­tacks, but Khartoum has re­jected the al­le­ga­tions.

Bashir is wanted by the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court on war crimes and geno­cide charges re­lated to Dar­fur, which he de­nies.

Su­dan in­sists that the con­flict in Dar­fur has ended, and it wants thou­sands of UN peace­keep­ers who have been de­ployed in the re­gion the size of France since 2007 to leave.

Pas­sen­gers es­cape the site of the de­rail­ment in Eseka. The ac­ci­dent claimed at least 60 lives and in­jured 600 peo­ple. — AFP

Pres­i­dent Omar al-Bashir

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