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Suspected Darfur militia leader urges mixed marriages

سودانيزاونلاين.كوم
sudaneseonline.com
5/9/2005 6:24pm

By Opheera McDoom

KALA, Sudan, May 9 (Reuters) - Arab tribal leader Musa Hilal, accused by the United States of being a feared militia leader, on Monday urged Darfur's tribes to inter-marry to help promote peace in the troubled region.
Hilal also told residents of the non-Arab village of Kala that from now on tribes would not hide their criminals but would find them, convict them or send them for judgment to the government or African Union forces monitoring a much-abused ceasefire in the region.

"The rebels and the government will deal with the political solution in talks in Abuja," he said of the Nigerian capital where talks to end the fighting in Darfur have so far failed to produce an agreement.

"And we will deal with the security and social problems," he added.

Sudan's remote Darfur region has been plagued by tribal violence for decades and a rebellion launched in early 2003 has traumatised the vast west of the country, killing tens of thousands and driving more than 2 million from their homes.

More than 500 Darfur villages have been burnt, mostly belonging to the non-Arab tribes from which two main rebel groups have drawn their support. Arab tribes in Darfur are mostly nomadic whereas non-Arabs tend to be sedentary farmers.

Hilal is named by the U.S. State Department as having coordinated government-allied Arab militias, known locally as Janjaweed, and who are accused of a widespread campaign of rape, looting and burning in Darfur.

Hilal denies this saying he answered a government call to defend his land against the rebels. He says his people and other tribes entered the armed forces as the Popular Defense Forces (PDF) who were commanded by the central army leadership.

He has launched a tour to promote peace and reconciliation on a grass-roots level in north and west Darfur, which took him to Kala, about 220 km (137 miles) west of the capital of North Darfur, el-Fasher.

Kala village leaders brought seven couples to meet Hilal, all of whom had married different tribes over the past two years, including the daughter of the village chief who had married into Hilal's tribe.

"I will give all those others who decide to marry other tribes 200,000 Sudanese pounds ($80)," Hilal told the villagers gathered in the large market full of clothes, grains and produce.

"I hope this will encourage others to do the same," he said. "We are all Muslims before God and nothing else should separate us," he told the crowd, who shouted "God is great".

While the fighting in Darfur has been quieter in recent weeks, banditry continues to plague aid workers and commercial routes in the region the size of France.

Hilal vowed to track down the bandits, he said who as recently as Saturday looted a commercial vehicle on the main road in the locality.

"We know who they are and I have sent for them to be arrested," he said, adding one, from an Arab tribe, had been caught already.

African Union-mediated talks hope to restart by the end of May but rebels have remained unwilling, AU officials say. The last round of talks collapsed in December after a government offensive in South Darfur on rebel bases, which the army said was to clear the roads of banditry.

($1=2,500 Sudanese pounds)

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