JEM: We will stop using child soldiers

Here is a welcome development.

Rebels in Sudan’s Darfur region and the United Nations have signed a deal to protect children from being used as soldiers in conflict zones.

The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, an independent mediation group based in Geneva, says Darfur’s Justice and Equality Movement, or JEM, and the United Nations Children’s Fund– UNICEF have signed a deal to protect children.

Dennis McNamara, Humanitarian Adviser, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, said, “I’m very pleased to say that the dialogue that has been long and detailed has finally resulted in a very concrete and important outcome which is the signing of this agreement.”

Under the agreement, UNICEF will have full access to all JEM locations to verify that children are not being exploited and used as soldiers.

Darfur Prisoners Tortured?

Rebel group JEM and Amnesty International are reporting that 82 Darfuri men sentenced to death by the Sudanese government are being subjected to “horrific treatment” – including inhumane conditions and torture.

Up to eight detainees are kept in cells of 2 by 1.5 meters wide, each originally designed for one prisoner. The cells are badly ventilated and detainees have to take turns to sleep. Detainees are prevented toilet facilities between 4pm to dawn and are fed foul food and dirty water. This has resulted in horrendous health problems including numerous cases of kidney infections.

Furthermore, many feel that the death sentences of the men are the result of unfair trials, inadequate legal counsel, and torture as a means of deriving confessions. Confessions under torture are admissible under Sudanese law.

JEM and Amnesty International are urging Sudanese and international authorities to investigate the allegations of inhumanity against the Darfuri prisoners.

On another note, Darfur was included as an “international hot spot” on CNN’s National Report Card for US President Obama’s first 100 days in office.

Arson Attack at IDP Camp

While Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir taunted the ICC by traveling to Egypt, arsonists started a fire at an IDP camp in West Darfur – killing at least two people and destroying 600 shelters.

Reports have emerged that describe the arsonists as armed men, some in uniform, who entered the camp during the middle of the night.

The fire, fueled by strong winds, damaged a quarter of the camp – home to 6,000 people.

JEM rebels blame state-backed militias for the fire –

This is part of a government campaign to clear people out of the camps.

The fire is currently under control.

UN: Peacekeepers Will Stay

Today, the chief of UN peacekeeping operations announced that UNAMID peacekeepers will remain in Darfur even if the ICC issues an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir on March 4th, as expected.

The Government would assume its full duty of protecting UN missions in Sudan against any negative impact that may result from the ICC’s possible decision against Sudanese political leadership.

The chief also stated that the UN will have “contingency planning to try to react to any situation”.

In other news, the leader of rebel group Justice and Equality Movement warned the Sudanese government today against harming Darfur civilians in response to the ICC’s decision.

If they harm civilians, JEM will react.

Sudan to Release Darfur Prisoners

Sudan’s justice minister has announced that the government will release 24 Darfur detainees.

The move comes after Tuesday’s signing of a deal of good intentions between Sudan and rebel group Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).

On its end, JEM released 21 government prisoners-of-war this week.

The justice minister did not specify whether those released would be JEM rebels but did emphasize that the Sudanese government’s aim is to promote peace efforts.

Nevertheless, there are reports that 17 JEM rebels and 11 Sudanese soldiers were killed during fighting in Darfur on Thursday – just two days after the signing of the goodwill deal.

Sudan and Rebels Make Deal

Photograph by Stop Genocide Now

Photograph by Stop Genocide Now

Today, the Sudanese government and rebel group Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) drafted a “declaration of good intentions”.

The deal reportedly includes an agreement to cease attacks on IDP camps in Darfur and the refugees who call them home.

The agreement is to be signed Tuesday.

Both the Sudanese government and JEM know that while this deal is significant, it alone will not bring peace to Darfur. More work lies ahead.

Darfur Town Captured

As expected, the Darfur town of Muhajiriya is now in the hands of the Sudanese army.

Rebel group Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) left Muhajiriya in an effort to prevent further fighting from impacting the town’s 30,000 residents.

UNAMID peacekeepers remained in the town – also for the sake of protecting residents.

In other news, Libyan leader and new African Union chairman Moammar Gadhafi said today that finding a resolution to the Darfur crisis is now his “personal responsibility“.