February 5, 2010 / 10:26 AM / 8 years ago

Darfur rebel infighting drives 10,000 from their homes

* 10,000 flee rebel infighting

* EU to send electoral observers

KHARTOUM, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Infighting in one of Darfur’s rebel groups has driven at least 10,000 people from their homes in the restive Jabel Marra area, deepening the humanitarian crisis in Sudan’s west, officials said.

Darfur’s rebels have fractured into dozens of groups since their rebellion began in early 2003, hindering peace efforts and increasing insecurity in Sudan’s west, where the United Nations estimates a humanitarian crisis has claimed 300,000 lives.

"There has been internal fighting in the SLA (Sudan Liberation Army)," Abu el-Gasim, the governor of West Darfur state told Reuters on Thursday.

SLA commanders told Reuters from Jabel Marra that they had disagreed with the group’s founder and leader, Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur, because they wanted to unify rebel ranks and take part in peace talks with the government to end seven years of conflict.

"Abdel Wahed rejects this totally and we cannot understand why," Adam Idriss, a senior SLA figure, told Reuters by telephone. "Then they began to assassinate our leaders."

Nur, who lives in Paris, denied any dissent in his movement and said those fighting them were government agents.

"I am blaming the government for this," Nur loyalist Ibrahim el-Helu said from Paris.

U.N.-African Union (UNAMID) peacekeepers confirmed the reports of factional fighting over the last 10 days.

"From our contact with humanitarian agencies we understand there are about 10,000 people who have been displaced," UNAMID spokesman Kemal Saiki said.

On Wednesday the International Criminal Court decided to reconsider genocide charges against President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, already wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

Mostly non-Arab rebels in Darfur took up arms in early 2003 accusing Khartoum of neglecting their region. A brutal counter-insurgency campaign drove more than 2 million people from their homes into makeshift camps.

The fighting in Darfur has since descended into a free for all with infighting between rebels and militias causing a breakdown of law and order in the massive desert region.

Darfuris complain UNAMID, which is struggling to slowly deploy its 26,000 troops, has failed to protect them. UNAMID is the world’s largest U.N.-funded peacekeeping mission.

Many Sudanese are concerned that the country’s first democratic elections in 24 years cannot be held in Darfur, with rebels boycotting the vote and many areas out of reach because of insecurity.

On Thursday, the National Elections Commission said it had signed an agreement with the European Union on an elections observer team.

"We signed an agreement that the EU will send an electoral observation mission of about 130 experts," the deputy head of the NEC Abdallah Ahmed Abdallah told Reuters.

The EU team will join the only other international observers - the U.S.-based Carter Center. (Reporting by Opheera McDoom; Editing by Giles Elgood)



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