May 21, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The former rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) faction led by Bakheit Abdallah Dabago (JEM-Dabago) has called o South Sudan’s government to intervene to secure the release of its members being held captive by mainstream JEM inside South Sudanese territory.
- Darfur rebel group JEM-Dabago hold a press conference in Khartoum on 21 May 2014 (ST)
JEM-Bashar, a breakaway group from JEM, inked a peace agreement negotiated with the Sudanese government on the basis of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) in the Qatari capital last year.
Following that, JEM killed the leader of JEM-Bashar, Mohamed Bashar, and his deputy Suleiman Arko, and detained more than 20 others in an attack near the Chadian border while they were returning to Khartoum.
JEM-Bashar subsequently appointed Bakheit Abdallah Dabago as Bashar’s successor.
One of JEM-Dabago’s members who fled from captivity, Jalal Hassan Mohamed, said at a press conference in Khartoum on Wednesday that the killing of Bashar and Arko was carried out under direct orders of JEM’s leader Gibril Ibrahim.
He pointed out that more than 28 members of his group were taken hostages and being transferred to Nuba Mountains amid cruel treatment, saying it took them 17 days to arrive to Kualeen area in the Nuba Mountain.
Mohamed said an investigation committee which was formed in al-Dar area in Nuba Mountains sentenced them to death, claiming that the hostages were then taken to the north-east of South Sudan’s Unity state capital of Bentiu.
He affirmed that JEM fought alongside the government army in the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, pointing out that Nuer tribe launched a retaliatory campaign against Darfur people in Bentiu to take revenge on JEM.
Fighting in South Sudan broke out last December after clashes erupted between forces loyal to president, Salva Kiir Mayardit, and his former deputy, Riek Machar. Much of the army (SPLA) has split between Kiir’s Dinka and Machar’s Nuer ethnic groups.
Mohamed said the captives were taken to the north of Bahr el Ghazal state following capturing of Bentiu by the opposition forces, saying he managed to flee to the town of Aweil before he arrived in the Sudanese capital.
He said 17 captives from his group are living under extremely difficult conditions that do not comply with the basic human rights and the international custom on prisoner’s rights, adding that one of the captives went blind due to severe torture.
Mohamed added that 10 of the captives from his group joined JEM and fought alongside Kiir’s army, saying some of them were killed and others wounded.
He further said that JEM forces are currently stationed in the east of Jebel Raja inside South Sudan’s territory while his fellow captives are held in Khor Shamam area, underscoring that elements from JEM oversee coordination with SPLA troops loyal to president Kiir.
JEM-Dabago’s secretary of presidential affairs, Nahar Osman Nahar, said the presence of JEM forces in a foreign country complicates the hostage crisis, saying his group was capable of freeing them if they were held inside Sudan’s territory.
He said they sent the hostage case to the UN Security Council’s (UNSC) sanctions committee and met with diplomats at the United Kingdom’s embassy in Khartoum on Tuesday to urge them to pressure leaders of JEM, saying London harbours some of those leaders and provide them with protection.
Nahar mentioned his group’s leader; Dabago announced last week that all options are open to free the hostages who spent more than a year in captivity.
In a related issue, Nahar expressed concern over the slow implementation of the agreement signed with the government, calling upon the concerned bodies to speed up completion of the signed understandings between the two sides.
Nahar emphasised his movement wouldn’t hesitate to announce its position if it decided to withdraw from the peace agreement and return to the battlefield.
He said that what has been implemented from the agreement doesn’t exceed 5%, noting they believe that resorting to arms wouldn’t resolve the conflict.
JEM-Dabago official also expressed hope for accelerating implantation of the suspended items and settling the security arrangements, adding they could return to war again if it became the only option before them.
JEM-Dabago’s spokesperson, al-Sadiq Youssef, for his part, acknowledged the existence of differences among his movement due to slow implementation of the agreement signed with the government.
He pointed to the grumbling among his group’s field commanders, saying the leader of the movement, Bakheet Dabago, was forced to be present among his fighters in order to follow up implementation of the security arrangements.
Youssef denied existence of signs that his movement would split particularly after responding to demands for changing the committees responsible for implementing the agreement and re-forming the executive office, accusing the government of failure to implement the agreement.