UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
SUDAN: Cairo deal to help consolidate peace
NAIROBI, 18 Jan 2005 (IRIN) - The agreement signed by the Sudanese government and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on Sunday will further consolidate the peace accord signed with the southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) on 9 January, sources said.
The NDA, which is based in Eritrea, signed the tentative agreement with the government in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. It supports the southern peace agreement, backs the drafting of a new constitution and calls for the formation of a neutral, professional army.
"This is a positive development," George Somerwill, deputy spokesperson of the United Nations Advance Mission in Sudan (UNAMIS), told IRIN on Tuesday. "At this time of great change for the people of Sudan, we welcome any move that contributes to the consolidation of the peace in the country."
NDA spokesman Khatem Es-Sir also lauded the accord, and was quoted as saying by AFP press agency that it "brings a practical solution to the question of democratic change".
The deal represents a framework for a comprehensive political solution between the two sides. It aims to lift the state of emergency, which has been in place since 1989, and to re-integrate the NDA into Sudan's political life.
The two sides also intend to set up a commission to re-integrate 3,000 armed fighters on the eastern Sudanese border with Eritrea, back into the regular Sudanese forces.
Under the power-sharing agreement between the government and the SPLM/A, 52 percent of the government will be from the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and 28 percent from the SPLM/A, with other northern parties taking 14 percent and other southerners 6 percent.
The Cairo agreement provides for the setting up of a committee on political representation that will discuss the proportion of posts the NDA will hold in the legislative and executive bodies during a transitional period.
Apart from the SPLM/A, the other main group in the NDA is the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), one of the big traditional parties in the Arab north.
Other NDA members include the Sudanese Communist Party, the Baath Party, the Beja Congress from the east of Sudan, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) from the western Sudanese region of Darfur and an alliance of southern parties independent of the SPLM/A.
The agreement puts an end to 15 years of friction between the Khartoum government and the opposition group headed by DUP chairman Mohamed Osman al-Marghani, a key figure in modern Sudanese history and hereditary spiritual guide - since 1968 - of the Khatmiyyah, the religious order upon which DUP is based.
Al-Marghani is now expected to return to Khartoum after years in exile.
The NDA was established in 1989 following a coup in which Sudanese president Omar el-Bashir overthrew Sudan's last democratically elected prime minister, Sadiq el-Mahdi.
The NDA is seen as a rival to the Al-Umma party of Sadek al-Mahdi - Sudan's legal opposition - and the outlawed Popular Congress of jailed Islamist Hassan al-Turabi.
During the past 16 years, armed NDA members have fought alongside the SPLM/A in the southern civil war, which left 2 million people dead, and launched sabotage attacks and other low-level violence in Sudan's north and east in opposition to el-Bashir's regime.
Talks between the NDA and the Sudanese government have taken place in Cairo for months, in parallel with separate negotiations in Kenya with the southern SPLM/A and in Abuja with two Darfur rebel groups.
Sunday's reconciliation agreement will lead to the disarmament of the NDA's armed militias and bring Sudan a step closer to a nation-wide peace. Ethnic Beja rebels from the eastern Sudan, however, boycotted the Cairo talks.
A final agreement is expected to be signed on 12 February in Cairo.
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