The List: Rebel Web Sites to Watch
Justice and Equality Movement
Web address: SudanJEM.com
Why they’re in the “opposition”: The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) was founded in the early 1990s after President Omar Hassan al-Bashir removed parliamentary speaker and Islamic leader Hassan al-Turabi from his post. In response, Turabi’s supporters in the Darfur region started protesting—and intermittently fighting—what they view as unequal treatment from the government. Today, much of the movement’s funding comes via neighboring Chad, whose leader Idriss Déby is just as keen on overthrowing Sudan’s president.
Why they need a Web site: One word: media. In a conflict that is widely reported and even more often misunderstood, JEM’s Web site offers an inside look into Darfur from the rebels’ perspective, as well as a means to contact them. The rebels got back to FP within 20 minutes of our e-mail (though they failed to respond directly to our questions).
The Web site’s main attraction is the infamous “Black Book”—a manifesto proclaiming the rebels’ grievances and goals. “This book is an exposé of the injustice that was visited on the Sudan by successive governments which ruled it since independence,” it reads. The authors explain that services, wealth, and political favors have been lavished upon the northern region (a neat chart claims that 76 percent of national wealth is concentrated there), where the capital Khartoum is located.
The Union of Forces for Change and Democracy
Web address: ufcd-tchad.org (French)
Why they’re in the “opposition”: After nearly two decades in power, the Chadian president has all but quashed the opposition, arresting his adversaries and chasing the more militant wings into the east, near the border with Darfur. After a rebel assault on the capital in February came just meters from the presidential palace, a handful of opposition leaders went missing. A month later, leaders from several of the rebel factions who assaulted N’Djamena, the capital, formed the Union of Forces for Change and Democracy (UFCD), calling for an end to Déby’s “bloody” regime.
Why they need a Web site: The UFCD has little need to fundraise through its Web site, as Sudan seems to provide a fair amount of the group’s cash in retribution for Chad’s funding of the JEM. The Web site is instead a clearing house for statements from all rebel factions operating in Chad. These are intended to “inform national and international opinion” and reassure observers of the insurgents’ anti-Déby focus. A recent declaration for example, assured Europe that the rebel forces had not harassed or attacked French interests in Chad, nor bothered the EU-backed peacekeeping force deployed in the country’s east.
Movement of Nigeriens for Justice
Web address: m-n-j.blogspot.com (French)
Why they’re in the “opposition”: The Movement for Nigeriens for Justice (MNJ) was founded in early 2007, but its conflict with the government of Niger dates back far longer. The Tuareg people, a nomadic group of herders in northwestern Africa, have protested their non-inclusion in government since the country’s independence in 1960. Mining in the region is a key grievance because it damages valuable grazing land without compensation for the loss of the Tuaregs’ livelihoods.
Why they need a Web site: The MNJ blog boasts the most colorful and up-to-date posts of any rebel site, as well as the best video presentation (complete with guns, background music, and big puffy letters). The group blogs about its latest battles with government forces and the booty it claims. On Oct. 10, the site proudly trumpeted the killing of four soldiers and the destruction of a Toyota 4×4.
The Web site has proven an especially useful tool for the MNJ since the government banned all televised discussion of the conflict in the summer of 2007. And just in case the government manages to filter Blogspot, MNJ appears to have a Facebook profile as a backup.
Elizabeth Dickinson is assistant editor at FP.