Sudan to strike peace with rebels after decades of war

Sudan’s government and rebels are to sign a landmark peace deal on Sunday in a bid to end decades of war in which hundreds of thousands died — a historic achievement if it holds.

Ending Sudan’s internal conflicts has been a top priority of the transition government in power since last year’s ouster of longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir amid a popular pro-democracy uprising.

Both sides are due to sign the deal in full on Saturday in Juba, the capital of neighbouring South Sudan, after putting their initials to the agreement at the end of last month.

Among the visitors for the signing at 11am local time will be ministers or leaders from Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Uganda, said Tutkew Gatluak, the chair of the mediating team in South Sudan.

“This agreement is important for Sudan and South Sudan,” he said. “If Sudan is at peace there is also peace in South Sudan. We are all one people in two different countries.”

Decades of war

Sudan has been torn by multiple conflicts between the Arab-dominated government that was led by Bashir for three decades and rebels drawn from non-Arab ethnic groups in its far-flung regions.

In Sudan’s vast rural areas, settled ethnic minority farmers have frequently competed for scarce resources with Arab herders, who have often been backed by Khartoum.

Tensions have been heightened by economic hardship, especially after the 2011 secession of South Sudan which deprived the north of three-quarters of its oil reserves.

Multiple civil wars have raged since independence in 1956, including the 1983-2005 war that led to the secession of the south.

The devastating war in Darfur from 2003 left at least 300,000 people dead and 2.5 million displaced in its early years, according to the UN.

Under the peace deal, SRF fighters are to be slowly incorporated into joint units with government security forces.

There are however holdout rebel groups who have refused to sign up to the deal.

One of them, the Darfur-based Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) faction led by Abdelwahid Nour, launched an attack on Monday, the army said.

Another, the South Kordofan-based wing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu, has signed a separate ceasefire.

It allows rebels to keep their guns for “self-protection” until Sudan’s constitution is changed to guarantee the separation of state and religion.

South Kordofan and to a lesser extent Blue Nile state have significant Christian populations who have fought for decades to end the imposition of Islamic law by Khartoum.

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