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SLUG: 2-315372 (CQ) Sudan/Rebel Groups (L O)
TITLE=(CQ) SUDAN/REBEL GROUPS (L-O)
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INTRO: In a development that could complicate ongoing peace talks to end two separate conflicts in Sudan, the government in Khartoum says it believes the Sudan People's Liberation Army - the S-P-L-A -- is actively giving military assistance to the main rebel group in western Darfur in their year-long fight against Khartoum. V-O-A correspondent Alisha Ryu has details from our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi.
TEXT: The Sudanese government is reacting with anger at Saturday's first-ever meeting between the leader of the southern-based S-P-L-A, John Garang and the leader of the Darfur rebel Sudan Liberation Movement, Abdulwahid Mohammed Ahmed.
The meeting, which took place in neighboring Eritrea, followed a suspension in the months-long talks in Kenya between the S-P-L-A and Khartoum. The talks are aimed at ending the 21-year civil war in the oil-rich south that has killed and displaced millions of people.
On April 17th, the head of the Sudanese delegation, Vice President Ali Osman Taha, left the talks for a weeklong consultation in Khartoum. Last Thursday, S-P-L-A leader John Garang also left Kenya, but he did not say where he was going.
Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail says the fact that Mr. Garang left the talks to meet a rebel leader from Darfur shows that southern-based rebels are not negotiating in good faith at the Kenyan-sponsored talks.
He says his government has proof that the S-P-L-A is actively assisting the rebels in Darfur in an effort to destabilize and eventually topple the government.
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This has been a policy of the S-P-L-A for a long time: to move forward to the north. Then, you weaken the government. The S-P-L-A itself is part of the rebellion in Darfur. They start to train some rebels from Darfur in camps in areas which are controlled by the S-P-L-A and Eritrea.
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Sudan has long accused Eritrea, which has a hostile relationship with Khartoum, of providing training facilities and arms to the S-P-L-A in the south, to rebel forces in Darfur, and another rebel group called Beja Congress in the east.
S-P-L-A's Kenya-based spokesman, Samson Kwaje, denies that his group is fueling the rebellion in Darfur, alongside Eritrea.
He says S-P-L-A leader John Garang met with S-L-A rebel leader Mohammed Ahmed on Saturday to give the western Darfur rebels moral and political support.
/// KWAJE ACT ///
Yes, we morally and politically support them because they are suffering the same marginalization that the people of the south have been subjected to. But the S-P-L-A is not assisting the rebels in Darfur with arms. We're not fighting there, and we're not arming anybody.
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Sudan's war in the south broke out in 1983 amid rebel accusations that the Arab Muslim government in Khartoum left the mostly Christian and animist Africans in the south impoverished and politically disenfranchised.
/// OPT REST /// In February 2003, two African Muslim rebel groups in Darfur took up arms against Khartoum, complaining of similar regional neglect. Since then, Darfur has become the site of what the United Nations calls the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the world, with nearly a million people displaced by the fighting.
Human rights groups also accuse Khartoum of helping local Arab militias commit gross human rights abuses in Darfur. The Sudanese government denies the charge. (Signed)
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