Sudanese peace accords signed

Three protocols were signed on Wednesday by Khartoum and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army on power-sharing and the administration of three disputed regions.

It comes after two years of intense political negotiations in Kenya and leaves only technical and military aspects of a ceasefire standing in the way of a comprehensive peace accord.

Kenyan chief mediator Lazarus Sumbeiywo said both sides had pledged to deliver this by late June or mid July.

The Kenyan talks, however, did not cover the western region of Darfur, where a separate conflict that began in February 2003 has created what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, leaving hundreds of thousands of people at risk of starvation and about a million displaced.

Nevertheless, the signing which took place at a lakeside hotel near the western Kenyan town of Naivasha, prompted a cacophony of cheers from hundreds of Sudanese refugees.

“This indeed is a momentous occasion in the history of our country,” declared SPLA leader John Garang.

“We have reached the crest of the last hill in our ascent to the heights of peace… there are no other hills. I believe what remains is flat ground,” he said.

“Things will never and can never be the same in Sudan.”

His negotiating counterpart, Sudanese vice president Ali Osman Taha, said: “This is a day for Sudan, for peace, development and stability.

“It’s our duty in Sudan to put these words into action with the same degree of determination to make peace.”

The latest phase of Sudan’s long-running civil war reignited in 1983 when the south, where most observe traditional religions and Christianity, took up arms to end domination and marginalisation by the wealthier, Islamic and Arab north.

Together with recurrent famine and disease, Africa’s longest conflict has claimed at least 1.5 million lives and displaced more than four million people, mostly in the impoverished south.

Since July 2002, when the two sides struck a deal granting the south the right to a referendum after a six-year transition period, other deals have been reached on a 50-50 split of the country’s wealth – particularly revenues from oil – and on how to manage government and SPLA armies during the interim period.

The two sides have agreed to form a government of national unity with a decentralised system of government with significant devolution of power to the states.

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