March 9, 2017 (KHARTOUM) - The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) praised the efforts of the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to ensure the release of the 259 prisoners of war who have been effectively freed Thursday in Khartoum.
Kober prison authorities in Khartoum-North Thursday released 259 Prisoners of War (POWs) member of Darfur armed groups in the implementation of the presidential pardon issued on Wednesday.
The director of Kober prison, Saeed Dahia, said 25 members of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) who participated in the 2008 attack on Omdurman have been released including Abdelaziz Ashr, the half-brother of JEM leader Gibril Ibrahim.
JEM Deputy Political Secretary, Mohamed Zakeria, welcomed the release of POWs and expressed hope that it would "pave the way for a true breakthrough to achieve a comprehensive peace in the country".
"We thank President Yoweri Museveni for the efforts he exerted to ensure their release. We have talked with the Ugandan leader in several meetings about this issue and explained to him that the release of prisoners is the gate to the peace process," he further said.
He added that Museveni within the framework of his efforts to facilitate the African Union-brokered peace process convinced President Omer al-Bashir to release the POWs.
Museveni held several meetings with the Sudanese armed groups in Kampala in the past year. Also, he organised informal meetings between them and the Sudanese government officials in Kampala and Addis Ababa.
The Ugandan president also attended the National Dialogue conference held in Khartoum last year and called the holdout opposition groups to join the process.
Zakeria pointed that JEM, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) and the Sudanese government have unilaterally released the POWs. He further said the warring parties in Darfur and the Two Areas have declared a unilateral cessation of hostilities since a year.
"All these measures may create a conducive environment for a comprehensive peace process," he said.
However, the rebel official regretted that several JEM POWs are not included in this presidential pardon. He further urged the government to free all the detainees from all the armed groups, along the lines of JEM and SPLM-N which released all the government forces.
He said that three out of seven POWs from Ibrahim Almaz Group detained in Jebel Moon area in 2009, are not covered by the presidential amnesty. In addition, he said the government detained some 211 POWs after Goz Dango battle of 26 April 2015 while those released Thursday are only 181 POWs.
Last August, the African Union criticised JEM and Sudan Liberation Movement - Minni Minnawi for insisting to include the issue of POWs in the agenda of the negotiations for a humanitarian cessation of hostilities agreement.