UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
SUDAN: Southern agreement raises hope for nationwide peace
NAIROBI, 10 Jan 2005 (IRIN) - The comprehensive peace agreement signed on Sunday between the Sudanese government and the southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) marks a new beginning for peaceful co-existence across Sudan, officials said.
Vice President Ali Osman Taha and John Garang, SPLM/A leader, signed the agreement in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, bringing an end to 21 years of civil war that has virtually destroyed the southern region of Sudan.
Sudanese President Hassan Omer el-Bashir, who called the agreement "a new beginning for the people of Sudan", said it should pave way for the resolution of problems of war and displacement in the western region of Darfur.
"We will embark with dedication to end all acts of hostility there [in Darfur] and move fast to achieve a successful solution which will meet the anticipation of our citizens in that beloved part of our country," he said.
"Sudan for the first time will be a country voluntarily united in justice, honour and dignity for all its citizens regardless of their race - regardless of their religion - regardless of their gender," Garang declared in his speech.
"Now that the war is ended, I call on all Sudanese people and their political forces to build consensus around this comprehensive peace agreement and use it to end war in other parts of Sudan," he added.
While lauding increased understanding between the parties as a result of the protracted negotiations that preceded the agreement, Taha urged them to focus on the implementation of the agreement and to put in place a government of national unity within weeks.
"There is no time to be wasted, nor efforts to be spared," Taha said.
"The real challenge now is for all the parties to show the same commitment, determination and courage in fully implementing the agreement, which will entail equally daunting challenges over a very long period," the UN special envoy to Sudan, Jan Pronk, who delivered a message on the behalf of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said.
Garang committed himself to resolving ongoing rivalries with southern militias and ethnic groups opposed to the SPLM/A, particularly in the transitional zones of southern Sudan, through south-south dialogue.
"This dialogue, above all, is to heal wounds and restore fraternity and mutual respect, so as to create a healthier political environment that is accommodative to all southern Sudanese political forces," Garang said.
Sunday's agreement requires the Sudanese government to withdraw at least 91,000 troops from the rebel-controlled south within two and a half years, while the rebels have eight months to withdraw their forces from northern Sudan.
Under the accord, Sudan will rewrite its constitution to ensure that Islamic law, or Sharia, is not applied to non-Muslims anywhere in the country.
The newly signed agreement further details protocols on sharing legislative power and natural resources, changing the armed forces during a six-year transition period and methods to administer the three disputed areas in central Sudan.
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, whose country spearheaded the mediation efforts, and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, the current chairman of the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development that sponsored the talks, witnessed the agreement.
Algerian President Abdulaziz Bouteflika, Rwandan President Paul Kagame Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and US Secretary of State Colin Powell were among the international dignitaries who attended the ceremony.
The war between the SPLM/A and the Sudanese government in the south erupted in 1983 when the rebels took up arms against authorities based in the north to demand greater autonomy.
The fighting has killed at least two million people, uprooted four million more, and forced some 600,000 to flee to neighbouring countries. The peace talks have been going on in the Kenyan town of Naivasha since mid-2003.
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