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SUDAN: Southern leaders in talks to salvage unity government

NAIROBI, 18 October 2007 (IRIN) - Leaders of the two major coalition partners in the Sudanese government of national unity were meeting in the capital, Khartoum, on 18 October to try to resolve a stalemate surrounding participation by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), sources said.

"Discussions are going on between the First Vice-President and President of Southern Sudan [Salva Kiir Mayardit] and President [Omar el] Bashir," Southern Sudan Information Minister Samson Kwaje said. "Nothing much will happen until they resolve the contentious issues raised by the SPLM."

The SPLM suspended its participation in the government on 11 October, accusing the north of violating the terms of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and failing to implement the accord.

The agreement, signed on 9 January 2005 in Nairobi, Kenya, ended a 21-year civil war between the North and South Sudan.

In response to the suspension, Bashir met an SPLM delegation led by Vice-Chairman Riek Machar and later announced a cabinet reshuffle.

The SPLM's Samson Kwaje said renewed SPLM participation in the national government was "not automatic" and would depend upon Kiir's meeting with Bashir on Thursday. Some media reports say the new cabinet list did not reflect the line-up submitted by the SPLM. In particular, the future role of former SPLM Foreign Minister Lam Akol is contentious.

An analyst said the withdrawal had raised the stakes in the implementation of the CPA and could attract more international attention. But it could also cause friction within the ruling National Congress Party (NCP).

"The decision is likely to exacerbate friction between factions within the ruling party, which itself is undergoing a crisis of cohesion," Mariam Jooma, of the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa, said. "This is mainly due to the increasing realisation that implementation of the agreement would indeed significantly reduce the hegemony of the NCP." Parliamentary elections are due in 2009, according to the CPA.

Analysts say one of the major sticking points between the SPLM and the NCP is the question of the oil-rich Abyei region, as well as demarcation of the north-south border, oil revenue sharing and the incomplete withdrawal of northern troops from Southern Sudan.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged both parties to resolve the situation in a manner that preserves the integrity of the CPA. He particularly urged the NCP to urgently take necessary steps to address the outstanding issues related to implementation.




Copyright © IRIN 2007
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