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Backers of Darfur rebel chief protest Sudan peace talks

Sudan’s prime minister Abdalla Hamdok (L) and South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit is in South Sudan for peace talks with rebels. FILE PHOTO AFP

Khartoum, Sudan | AFP |  Hundreds of supporters of a key rebel leader from Darfur protested Monday against peace talks being held in Juba between Khartoum and other Sudanese rebel groups.

Juba is hosting talks between Sudan’s new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and representatives of three rebel groups that fought forces of now ousted president Omar al-Bashir in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced in the conflicts in the three regions of Sudan.

But the Sudanese Liberation Army-Abdel Wahid Nur (SLA/AW), one of the groups which fought Bashir’s forces in Darfur, is boycotting the talks.

Nur’s supporters living in camps for people displaced by the Darfur conflict staged a demonstration against the talks.

“We reject the negotiations in Juba,” chanted the crowds who carried banners in support of Nur, witnesses said.

A supporter of Nur told AFP by telephone that the Juba talks were pointless if their group was not involved.

“We want to be represented by Abdel Wahid Nur,” said Yakub Mohamed, a resident of Camp Kalma, home in South Darfur for tens of thousands of people displaced by the conflict.

Nur, who is exiled in France, leads the SLA/AW group which does not recognise Hamdok’s government tasked with leading Sudan’s transition to civilian rule after the ouster of Bashir in April.

Hamdok and Nur held talks in Paris last month but the rebel chief said he recognised Hamdok only as a “political figure” not as Sudan’s prime minister.

“There is no peace, there is no accountability, there is no free press — the killing in Darfur, in the Nuba mountains, in the Blue Nile is continuing,” he told AFP after the meeting.

“All of us we want to sit together in a partnership country, in a partnership of equal citizenship rights, to identify all together what are the problems of Sudan and what is the solution,” he said.

But Nur stressed: “We are not recognising the military council and we are not recognising the new government.”

Unlike the SLA/AW, the three rebel groups at the talks are part of the umbrella protest movement that led to Bashir’s overthrow by the army which replaced him with a military council before a government was formed last month.

Conflict broke out in the vast Darfur region of western Sudan in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the then Arab-dominated government of Bashir.

About 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in the conflict, according to the United Nations.

Rebels in Blue Nile and South Kordofan fought alongside southern secessionists but were left north of the border when the country was divided in 2011. They have since kept up their own insurgency against Khartoum.

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