Darfur's strongest rebel group elects new chief

Thu Jan 26, 2012 10:34am GMT

By Khalid Abdelaziz and Alexander Dziadosz

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - A rebel group, the strongest in Sudan's Darfur region, will press efforts to overthrow the country's Arab-dominated government after electing the brother of its slain leader as chairman, an official said on Thursday.

Last month, government forces killed Khalil Ibrahim, head of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), dealing a heavy blow to Darfur's nearly decade-long insurgency in which hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have been killed.

Some political analysts questioned whether JEM - seen by as the most militarily powerful of Darfur's various rebel groups - might splinter into rival factions after Ibrahim's death.

JEM's spokesman Gibreel Adam Bilal played down that possibility, saying over 100 of the group's leaders from inside and outside Sudan met in the South Kordofan state on January 24 and 25, and elected Ibrahim's brother as their new chief.

An alliance known as the Sudanese Revolutionary Front between JEM and other insurgents in Darfur and two border states would also continue, he said.

"The leaders elected Dr. Jibril Ibrahim as chairman of the Movement, and decided to continue on the same route to depose the government and coordinate with the Revolutionary Front to achieve this goal," Bilal said by satellite phone.

The conflict in Darfur began in 2003 when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms, complaining the central government had economically and politically marginalised the region. Khartoum mobilised troops and mostly-Arab militias to quell the unrest.

International efforts to broker peace in the region have so far faltered, hindered by fighting and rebel divisions.   Continued...

Sudanese rebel Justice and Equality Movement newly-elected leader Jibril Ibrahim signs an agreement of good intentions during a meeting with representatives of the Sudanese government in an attempt to broker an end to the war in Darfur, February 17, 2009.  REUTERS/Osama Faisal
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