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February 21, 2010

members of the JEM trying to send email. Note screen saver

Darfur's most powerful rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement, has agreed to a truce with the Sudanese government and will now return to the table for peace talks aimed at ending the Darfur conflict.

Chadian President Idris Deby announced that the truce between the JEM and the Sudanese government will take effect immediately. The agreement will be formally signed in Doha, Qatar, on Tuesday in the presence of Deby and the leaders of Sudan and Qatar.

In Khartoum, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir announced the pardon of 105 members of JEM captured during the May 2008 assault on Khartoum's twin city, Omdurman. "I cancel all the sentences of hanging pronounced against members of the Justice and Equality Movement."

Al-Bashir said on state television: "Today we signed an agreement between the government and JEM in Ndjamena and in Ndjamena we heal the war in Darfur."

Sudan and Chad have been supporting the other's rebel groups but recently they have been working toward improving their relationship. Saturday's agreement is significant because it appears to have the solid support of Chad.

In 2008 on Al-Jazeera Arabic language television, Khalil Ibrahim leader of the JEM said, "All previous efforts for a ceasefire and reaching peace failed due to the stubbornness of the Sudanese government. Therefore the hope for achieving peace in Darfur and all over Sudan has faded. The government is totally unconcerned with what happens to the people of Darfur" .

But this week Khalil Ibrahim sounded more hopeful, telling Al Jazeera that JEM has agreed to the temporary ceasefire because without such an agreement, "nobody can guarantee a peaceful election in Darfur. "The government was quite worried about how these elections can be held in Darfur without a ceasefire. And they know that if JEM wanted to disrupt the elections it can do so." he told Al Jazeera, adding, "Any reduction of violence makes life easier ... People can enjoy security. There is a big difference. Of course."

Ahmed Hussein, a Jem spokesman, told the AFP news agency that the group would order its forces to stop military operations . "We have just initially signed the framework agreement," he said. "We will discuss many issues - return of the IDPs [internally displaced persons], power and wealth sharing, compensation, detainees.

"We are committed to a peaceful solution for Darfur."

Khalil Ibrahim said there must be a way to have the people of Darfur involved in the political process."This means that either there should be a special arrangement for Darfur concerning the election or the elections be postponed," he said.

Sudan is to hold its first multiparty elections in April for the first time in 24 years. A referendum to decide whether southern Sudan should become independent is to be held in 2011.

Darfur's other main rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), is refusing to participate in the negotiations. Many of the refugees and IDPs remain loyal to Abdul Wahiid who is the leader and founder of the SLA . But Wahiid moved to Paris in 2007. He will not return to negotiate with the Sudanese regime or participate in any peace talks until security improves in Darfur, janjaweed are disarmed, and foreign tribes who have come to Darfur and settled on the land of Darfuris who were displaced by violent attacks, are removed.
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