Sudan's Warring Factions Sign A Landmark Peace Deal

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:15pm EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - Two decades of civil war appears to be over in Sudan, where the warring parties have agreed on most of the outstanding issues that had blocked the signing of a final peace deal.

The Sudanese government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) signed three power-sharing and administration protocols late Wednesday, following two years of negotiation.

The deal, which gives southern Sudan more of a say in their government, was ironed out after last-minute negotiations that went on until the early hours of Thursday morning.

Sudanese vice president Ali Osman Taha said he was optimistic that with the ending of the war, Khartoum will end its discrimination against people based on political affiliation or social origins.

The twenty-year Sudanese civil war has been fought between Arab Muslims in the north, who control the government and national resources, and Christians and animists from the south.

The agreements reached this week do not involve a separate war now raging between the government and black tribal militias in Dafur, the western part of Sudan. The rebels there still are fighting for economic and political autonomy.

The war in Dafur started last year and has displaced more than one million people.

Kenya's foreign minister Kalonzo Musyoka said he hoped that yesterday's "significant achievement in the peace effort" will lead to a just and lasting political settlement not only for the south, but also for the entire country, including Dafur.

United States State Department said the peace deal paves the way for normal relations to be revived with Sudan, providing certain conditions are met, among them end to the violence in the western region of Dafur and the final signing of a comprehensive peace agreement.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher termed the situation in Dafur as "terrible" and said the U.S. this week sent its first disaster assistance team members to help take care of the people there.

Ordinary Sudanese people said they hoped the peace deal will finally mean the end of war that has impoverished the southern part of the nation.

Peter Garang, a 10-year-old Sudanese refugee living in Kenya, said he was eager "to get back home" as soon as the situation would allow.

"We want to rebuild our country. We hope the war will not recur. It has been hard especially for young people who have never experienced peace at home," said Mary Akol, 35-year-old mother of three, now living at a refugee camp in northern Kenya.

The fighting in southern Sudan began in 1983 when the predominately Christian and animist population took up arms against the Muslim Arab government of Khartoum to fight for political and economic autonomy.

The war has claimed an estimated two million lives, most of them civilians who died of disease or famine.

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