The JEM traces its foundation to the writers of the Black Book, a manuscript published in 2000 that details the structural inequity in the country. JEM espouses an Islamist ideology, and the government links the group to Hassan al-Turabi, although leaders of the group and Turabi himself deny the claim. However, al-Turabi blames the government for "aggravating the situation."
On January 20, 2006, the Justice and Equality Movement declared a merger with the Sudan Liberation Movement, along with other rebel groups, to form the Alliance of Revolutionary Forces of West Sudan. However, the JEM and SLM negotiated as separate groups with peace talks with the government in May 2006.
In October 2007, the JEM attacked the Defra oilfield in the Kordofan region of Sudan. The Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company, a Chinese-led consortium, controls the field. The next month, a group of 135 Chinese engineers arrived in Darfur to work on the Defra field. Ibrahim told reporters, "We oppose them coming because the Chinese are not interested in human rights. It is just interested in Sudan's resources." The JEM claims that the revenue from oil sold to China funds the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed militia.
On the morning of December 11 2007, Khalil Ibrahim claimed that JEM forces fought and defeated Sudanese government troops guarding a Chinese-run oilfield in the Kordofan region. Khartoum officials, however, denied that any oil fields had come under attack. Ibrahim said that the attack was part of a JEM campaign to rid Sudan of Chinese-run oilfields and stated that "[The JEM] want all Chinese companies to leave. They have been warned many times. They should not be there."
On May 11, 2008 JEM attacked the Sudanese capital of Khartoum. The government declared victory, saying that the attack had been repelled and leading members of the group had been killed, although the JEM said that the attack was successful. Eltahir Elkaki, the General Secretary of JEM's legislative council, vowed that the war would henceforth be fought across the country, saying that "We haven't changed our tactics. From the beginning, Jem is a national movement and it has a national agenda. Khalil Ibrahim declared that "This is just the start of a process and the end is the termination of this regime".