Africa News blog
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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 has seen off other challenges in almost 20 years in power and there is no sign that he is going to give in to the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
Some supporters of the court’s move hope it will eventually persuade Sudan’s politicians to hand over their leader in a palace coup, end the festering conflict in Darfur and do more to repair relations with the West.
Look down the list of the cases the International Criminal Court is pursuing – Congo, Central African Republic, Darfur, Uganda – and it doesn’t take long to spot the connection.
Of the dozen arrest warrants the court has issued, all have been against African rebels or officials. On Monday, the court begins its first trial - of Thomas Lubanga, accused of recruiting child soldiers to wage a gruesome ethnic war in northeastern Congo. Earlier this month, former Congolese rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba was in court for a decision on whether to confirm charges of ordering mass rape to terrorise civilians in the Central African Republic.
Covering Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni for four years as the Reuters correspondent in Kampala was seldom dull.
When he was in a good mood, the former rebel would banter with journalists long after his aides wanted him to leave. In a bad mood, he would scowl and growl back answers in return.