Over the weekend, Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), one of the rebel groups operating in the Darfur region, launched an attack against Khartoum in hopes of ousting current president Omar Bashir.
Early Saturday evening, the swelling sound of heavy fighting came from Omdurman, a suburb just across the river from Khartoum, and helicopters and army trucks headed toward the area, according to a Reuters reporter in the capital. Earlier in the day, the rebels said they had taken control of Omdurman and would not relent until they had pushed into the center of Khartoum.
“The international community has failed to protect our people, and now we are in a position to do it,” said Tahir Elfaki, chairman of the legislative council for JEM, speaking from a London airport as he headed to Libya, which, along with the government of Chad, is a main backer of the rebel group. “We are not going to stop until this regime is removed once and for all.”
The United States has officially condemned the attack and claims that such actions only frustrate the already tense negotiations. Nonetheless, the government of Khartoum is seen almost universally as a regime that has ignored practically every region of its country, murdering hundreds of thousands and displacing over a million.
While the rebel action was not entirely unanticipated by the international community, reports from the ground, citing examples of Sudanese soldiers joining the rebels, have been particularly troubling for international observers who fear that this could signal the breakdown of party loyalties across the country. To add fuel to the fire, JEM is reported to get funding from Chad, which heightens the risk of cross border conflicts, inter-country disputes, and puts the millions of displaced people in-harms-way.