September 6, 2007 / 1:30 PM / 10 years ago

Darfur rebel chief criticises new state negotiator

3 Min Read

By Simon Apiku

KHARTOUM, Sept 6 (Reuters) - A Darfur rebel leader branded as "arrogant" on Thursday the Sudanese government's new chief negotiator for the strife-torn western region, saying the appointment would make upcoming peace talks difficult.

Khartoum named Nafie Ali Nafie, a close presidential adviser, as its chief Darfur negotiator on Wednesday.

Khalil Ibrahim, leader of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), told Reuters: "He does not believe in justice and equality between people in Sudan -- it makes the coming peace talks difficult."

"I do not believe he can make a fair agreement that is acceptable to the people," Ibrahim said.

Nafie was not available for a comment. He replaces Majzoub al-Khalifa, widely seen as a government hardliner, who died in a car accident in June.

The United Nations and African Union expect to send out invitations soon to the various Darfur rebel leaders for peace negotiations with the government widely expected in October.

Ibrahim went on to criticise Nafie's knowledge of the region, saying "he has no insight about the suffering of the people of Darfur".

International experts estimate that some 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been displaced during the past 4-1/2 years of fighting in Darfur, which erupted when rebels took up arms against the government complaining of marginalisation. Sudan puts the death toll from the conflict at 9,000.

Another prominent Darfur rebel leader, Abdel Wahid Mohammed Nur -- founder of the Sudan Liberation Movement -- said it didn't matter to him who the government chose as its Darfur point man.

"We don't care who is appointed," Nur said, adding that his group was only concerned about the issues up for discussion.

Nur refused to sign a 2006 peace deal negotiated by Nafie's predecessor al-Khalifa. Nur has said he will not participate in a fresh round of peace talks between the government and rebel groups unless a string of conditions are met.

Abu Bakr Mohammed Kado, a field commander with the Sudan Liberation Army Unity faction, said he was hoping for progress in upcoming talks.

"We hope that it will not be a long-drawn-out process," he said. But he also questioned the government's seriousness in resolving the conflict peacefully.

"Just yesterday they were bombing in Haskina (in eastern Darfur)," he said.



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