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Can Darfur's disparate rebels unite?

Fighting between rebels could complicate fresh peace talks, which begin Sunday in Libya.

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Just a year or two ago, Sudanese militant leaders Al-Hadi Adam Agabeldour and Sadiq Ali Shaibo would have considered each other enemies. They belonged to different militias, and their ethnic groups – Arab and Zaghawa, respectively – were fighting on opposite sides of the war in Sudan's troubled Darfur region.

But today, they have united to fight the Sudanese government in Khartoum for its neglect and destruction of Darfur.

"The government only used us like guns, like tools, and when they were finished with us, they threw us down," says Mr. Agabeldour, spokesman for the Arab-led militant group United Revolutionary Force/Front in neighboring Chad. "But we are the new generation of Arabs, and we have joined with other militant groups. If we decide to go to war, we go together. If we decide to go for peace, we go together."

Sadiq Ali Shaibo, a top leader within the National Movement for Rehabilitation and Development, says that the only way the people of Darfur will get anything positive from this crushing four-year conflict that has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced more than 2.5 million is if militant groups unify against Sudan's government. "We want all the movements of Darfur to have one voice. If we are all one voice, we will be stronger."

Such talk of unity, with peace talks scheduled to begin in Tripoli, Libya, starting Sunday, is well received here and could be the first step toward a political solution of the Darfur conflict. Perhaps the most significant aspect is the decision of many Sudanese Arabs – including members of the pro-government militias – to switch sides to fight alongside Darfuri rebels, a step that weakens Khartoum's last major base of support in the troubled region.

Yet analysts say that militant groups are still far from unity in any real sense of choosing leaders or common goals, or in designing a common path forward – giving Khartoum the advantage in the conflict.

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