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There is a classic scene in Monty Python’s film The Life of Brian where the hero sets off in search of a secret band of insurgents. “Are you the Judean People’s Front,” he asks a group of malcontents. “The Judean People’s Front!” they reply in disgust. “We’re the People’s Front of Judea … The only people we hate more than the Romans are the f***ing Judean People’s Front … And the Judean Popular People’s Front. Splitters!”
Darfur’s more Islamic rebels will not appreciate the Judean comparison. But there has been an undeniable Pythonesque quality to recent efforts to negotiate with the splintered insurgent factions in Sudan’s strife-torn west.
Last month, Khartoum signed a ceasefire with Darfur’s rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). Days later, JEM threatened to pull out of further peace talks saying it was furious about Khartoum’s decision to sign a similar deal with the new rebel umbrella group the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM).
JEM lashed out at LJM, saying most of its constituent groups were bogus with no military strength, many of them government stooges. (The LJM’s member parties, who deny JEM’s accusations, include the United Resistance Front – URF, the Sudan Liberation Movement Mainstream – SLM-M and the Democratic Justice and Equality Movement – D-JEM, together with even more obscure bodies.)
Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was in a jubilant mood when he announced to crowds of supporters that he was declaring a ceasefire in Darfur.
From his body language, you might have thought he had already ended the crisis and achieved his goal of avoiding a possible indictment by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur.