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Sudan Report

Long road to peace

The agreement signed by the parties to the Sudan talks in Kenya recently is so loaded it could lead to the creation of a new country on the African continent.
Henry Owuor

The peace agreement ends a war that has killed two million people besides sending millions of others fleeing into neighbouring countries.

It means that an area as big as Kenya, Uganda and Burundi put together could soon be under the control of Colonel John Garang, a man who until 1983 was a simple colonel in the Sudanese army.

When finally sealed, it means Col Garang, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) will become first vice-president of the entire Sudanese Republic besides being commander-in-chief of his own army based in the south of the country.

It took 14 hours to hammer out the accord, signed late in the night as guests who had been invited for a midday event dozed off. However, the deadlock at the talks was not about Colonel Garang's posts but over some small enclaves located inside northern areas known as Abyei, Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile.

The deadlock was caused by a demand by Khartoum that it gets 70 per cent while rebels get 30 per cent of all posts in the disputed areas. They finally settled on a 55/45 per cent arrangement in the Nuba Mountains.

The delay was also caused by the rebels’ insistence that all residents of the three disputed areas, who fled the war be allowed to vote in a referendum to be held in the region six years after a final peace accord.

For Sudanese children, the geography books will be revised since they will have to learn about new provinces to be created under the deal.

In this case, Abyei will be a special administration zone directly under the presidency­ which means President Omar el-Bashir, first Vice-President Garang and second Vice-President Taha.

However, the fact is President el-Bashir can decide to name anyone else he desires to the post of second Vice-President.

It has been a long journey, which started in the Kenyan town of Machakos, 60 kilometres from the capital, Nairobi, in 2002 where the two sides agreed on a protocol that called for the right to self-determination for the South if a referendum to be held after a final peace deal is signed says so.

The so-called Machakos Protocol also gave the South the right not to practise the Islamic Sharia law. The talks were later moved to Naivasha, 80 kilometres from Nairobi where the parties agreed on security arrangements that provided for a new 24,000-man force comprising southerners and northerners on 50/50 basis to patrol the South once a peace deal is signed.

Under the Security Protocol, both sides will retain their own independent armies to guard against any failure of the peace accord.

Next was a wealth-sharing deal that provided the rebels with 50 per cent share of the oil wealth while the northerners got the other half.

On 26 May, it all finally boiled down to a final dash as the parties discussed how to share government positions and settle the contentious issue of how to administer the Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile and Abyei.

With all these settled, Col Garang stated: "Tonight we have surmounted the last hill, I believe the remainder is flat ground."

So long as the parties don't go back on their words, Mr Garang's statement that "things cannot and will be the same again in the Sudan," will remain true.

Still, the signs are that the wall to peace in the Sudan is yet to be broken.
Showing the mistrust, the two delegations sat on different sides of the tent. Even after signing the accord, the delegation leaders did not agree to a request to pose with the final document.

Even questions over where the final accord would be signed were just skimmed over.
However, the signs were that the Sudan is serious about this accord. Said Mr Taha said: "Peace is our gift to the entire region, to every child, every weak person and even the strong.’’

He was conciliatory, noting that the Sudan had started a "process of partnership."
There appeared to be a family atmosphere at the ceremony even though the parties remained on different sides of the tent.

Mr Taha was clear that he was shedding no tears over the accord that will lead to his demotion from the first vice-president post.

Mr Taha said in his opening remarks: "I greet my brother Dr John Garang and I thank him for his patience and sincerity.’’

Col Garang had praise for the hippos of Lake Naivasha for entertaining them during the 14 months they were secluded at the magnificent Simba Lodge.

Still, what took place in Naivasha was just but a corner in the long journey to a comprehensive peace agreement on the Sudan conflict.

Delegates will now take a one-month break and resume late June to hammer out the final accord.
The just ending session has been among the longest having started way back on February 16.
Says Mr Nick Haysom, personal adviser to the talks chairman Lieutenant General (rtd) Lazarus Sumbeiywo: "The details of a secure ceasefire are yet to be worked out.''

Mr Haysom, a former adviser to Nelson Mandela said delegates are yet to define the operation of the new army to police the South and the disputed areas in the north once a peace deal is signed.

The delegates shall also address the independent forces to be maintained by both sides. For instance, the North has some 100,000 soldiers in the South while the rebel army is currently 70,000 strong.

However, sources within the SPLM say not even Col Garang knows the exact strength of the SPLM forces under his command hence his plea to soldiers, some based in Nairobi, to report to their units in the Sudan.

The delegates are also to address the implementation modalities of all protocols signed so far and put them all in a single document which will be signed in Nairobi.

Once the parties wrap up all issues, they will proceed to the White House in Washington DC where President George Bush is eagerly waiting to receive them.

Says Mr Haysom: "Washington shall be a formality after it is all wrapped up in Kenya.’’
Mr Haysom estimates that "a final peace agreement should be in the bag by end of July or mid August and immediately thereafter, a White House ceremony shall follow.''

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