Sudan’s former foes agree timetable for peace deal

Sudan’s former foes have agreed on steps to implement a 2005 peace deal, First Vice-President Salva Kiir said on Sunday, indicating the country’s worst political crisis in years may be resolved soon.

The announcement raised hopes that ministers from the former southern rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement’s (SPLM) will soon return to the national coalition government, ending the political paralysis that set in after they froze the partnership in protest last month.

”The Presidency … approved a number of principles on which basis presidential decrees will be issued to authorise a timetable and mechanisms of implementation which will resolve all the issues,” Kiir’s statement, read by his press attaché, said.

He added work was under way to resolve the issue of the disputed oil-rich region of Abyei, but he did not say if or when the SPLM ministers, about a quarter of the cabinet, would return to their posts.

Sudan’s north-south deal ended Africa’s longest civil war which claimed two million lives and drove four million from their homes.

But the SPLM said they were frustrated at the lack of progress to implement key parts of the peace deal, including withdrawing northern forces from southern oil fields and demarcating the north-south border.

Kiir said the SPLM was not building up its troops along the north-south border as reported by Khartoum’s press, but said the northern army were ready for battle.

”Since July they [the northern army] have been in a state of readiness … probably because they expected the SPLM to attack them,” said Kiir. The northern troops were supposed to withdraw by July 9 this year according to the deal. Kiir said southern soldiers remained in their camps.

Kiir said a joint six-member committee would be formed to resolve outstanding issues.

Kiir visits the United States this week to brief the UN Security Council and travel to Washington.

The dominant northern National Congress Party has blamed the SPLM for derailing peace talks in Sudan’s remote western Darfur region which formally opened on October 27 in Libya with none of the main rebel factions in attendance.

Many of the rebels said until the SPLM returned to the coalition the government was not legal and others questioned why, if the north-south deal was not being implemented, they should negotiate an accord with the NCP.

They also wanted more time to unify their ranks ahead of any talks. – Reuters

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