August 23, 2010 (WASHINGTON) — The government of Burkina Faso told Sudan that it is prepared to receive the leader of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) Khalil Ibrahim, a diplomatic source told Sudan Tribune.
The source who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the Sudanese government was seeking to find a country to receive the rebel chief after leaving Libya where he currently resides.
Ibrahim, who was denied entry to Chad last May following a thaw in relations between Ndjamena and Khartoum, has been forced to accept a Libyan offer to host him. The rebel movement at the time slammed the Darfur mediation team accusing them of conspiring with the Sudanese government to prevent Ibrahim’s return to Darfur.
Sudan has been pressing hard over the last few months to have the JEM chief expelled but the Libyan side brushed the requests aside saying they are maintaining “an equal distance” from all parties to the Darfur conflict. However, they promised to reign Ibrahim and prevent him from making political statements or issuing orders to his troops.
The Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir said earlier this month that he received assurances from Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi that JEM leader will be expelled “within days” but did not elaborate. A similar assertion was made by the director of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) Mohamed Atta Al-Moula last June.
The diplomatic source told Sudan Tribune that Al-Moula made a trip recently to Burkina Faso where he discussed with officials there the possibility of hosting Ibrahim. However, the source could not confirm whether the JEM chief would actually take the offer.
He suggested that Libya, Chad, Qatar and Sudan are on agreement over the choice of Burkina Faso adding that other options were floated during discussions including Uganda and Senegal.
Khartoum wants to keep JEM leader away from any countries bordering Sudan for fear that he may attempt to sneak into Darfur, the source added.
The JEM spokesperson Ahmed Hussein denied any intention on the part of the Libyans to expel Ibrahim describing it as “government propaganda”.
“If Dr. Khalil is to leave Libya it will be to the field [in Darfur] and not anywhere else,” he told Sudan Tribune.
“The Sudanese government is scrambling to do a damage control after what [president] Bashir said on having Dr. Khalil expelled within days. This put them in a corner and they now want to save face” Hussein added.
The JEM official stressed that the Libyan government is dealing with Ibrahim as a “leader of a movement with a just cause” adding that authorities there are in regular contact with him.
“There is a new Libyan initiative on Darfur and it makes no sense for them to expel Dr. Khalil as he is a crucial part of any solution,” he said.
JEM signed a tentative agreement and ceasefire with Khartoum in February which unravelled amid renewed clashes. The rebel group suspended its participation in the Doha peace talks saying that the Sudanese government violated the accord.