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A Gift For Khartoum

Eric Reeves, a professor of English Language and Literature at Smith College, who also runs, reports here on the latest tragic development in Darfur.

On May 10, one of Darfur's key rebel factions, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), struck military targets within Omdurman, the twin city of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. Although rumored for days, the long-distance rebel attack seemed to catch the ruling National Islamic Front (NIF) regime by surprise. This was an extraordinary military event, one without precedent under the regime, and its leaders have been badly rattled--perhaps the primary ambition of an assault that had no chance for sustainable military success.

But satisfying as the attack may have been for JEM, it is likely to prove extremely bad news for the people of Darfur. There have already been multiple reports from human rights groups and the Sudanese diaspora that Darfuris are being beaten, arrested, and in some cases, summarily executed. Most have been Zaghawa, the Darfur tribal group dominant in JEM and its leadership.

Currently, JEM has the strongest military among the Darfuri rebel factions, and it's the most willing to act alone--but it's also the least representative of the people of Darfur as a whole. Its leader, Khalil Ibrahim, has had deep political connections with Hassan al-Turabi, who did much to chart the Islamist agenda that has governed Sudan for the past 18 years. JEM's military has been assisted by the regime of embattled President Idriss D