Sudan truce a harbinger of regional peace
Peace advocates are optimistic that a final peace agreement on Sudan expected later this year, is likely to influence the many rebel outfits in the region to enter into negotiations, if not, expose them to pressure from the international community to follow the Sudan path.
Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Northern Uganda, are some of the volatile situations stakeholders at the Sudan peace talks believe, are likely to experience the impact once a comprehensive peace for Sudan is hammered out.
"Being the longest running war in the region, we believe this is a beacon in the efforts by the region to find peace. And because of the infectious nature of this peace accord, we believe that other troubled areas will borrow a leaf from this process," noted the Kenya foreign affairs minister, Kalonzo Musyoka, who cited Somalia, Northern Uganda and the continued tension between Eritrea and Ethiopia, as some of the likely beneficiaries.
The Uganda government, for instance, has continuously alleged that the continued war in Sudan has enabled Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army to gain military assistance from the government of Sudan.
President Omar el-Bashir's government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) led by Dr John Garang, last month signed three protocols in Naivasha touching on power-sharing and how to jointly manage the three disputed areas of Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile, and the oil-rich Abyei in central Sudan.
But what has been described as a "win-win situation" for the Sudan that has endured two decades of civil war and instability, still has a long way, amidst fears that the exclusion of many armed militias in the South could open new fronts for conflict, given that some of them are opposed to SPLA, or are sympathetic to its cause but were not part of the agreement.
Keen observers of the 21-year long conflict, maintain that the government of Sudan must make an effort to incorporate all armed factions as well as the opposition political parties for any lasting peace to take root.
Sudan watchers believe that a peace agreements between SPLA and the government could be used as a springboard to solve conflicts in other parts of Sudan. It is estimated that there are about 30 armed groups around the country, who are also demanding the share of power and resources.
Leading among them are the Beja rebels of a Muslim Sufi order in the east, and rebels operating in the Shilluk Kingdom of Upper Nile. But of great concern, is the conflict in the western region of Darfur, where more than 1 million people have been rendered homeless, a situation described by the UN as currently the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
It is feared that this conflictwhere the rebels complain that the Khartoum government has put too much resources in the effort to contain the war in the south at the expense of Darfur residentscould seriously undermine the overall peace process.
Indeed, the question that was in the lips of many observers at the signing ceremony is: “How can the international community accept Khartoum as a peace-maker when at the time there is a huge humanitarian crisis going on in Darfur?”
The government delegates, however, maintained that they are committed to peace as evidenced by continuous presence of vice-president , Ali Osman Taha, in Naivasha for the last nine months.
Such is the gravity of the situation that African Union's newly established Peace and Security Council sitting in Addis-Ababa on 25 May, voted to send an observer mission of 100 personnel (60 military and 40 civilians concerned with humanitarian assistance) to the region, while urging Khartoum to disarm the murderous militia believed to be responsible for the violence in Darfur.
Darfur aside, the question now is how fast a comprehensive and final peace accord can be signed, given that the implementation modalities and system of guarantees, are still pending.
The Kenyan chief mediator, Lazaro Sumbeiywo, was quick to remind the concerned parties that the May 26 agreement was not the end product but a giant step towards peace.
Mr Musyoka, however, remained optimistic arguing that "we hope that they can move expeditiously in accordance with the strong message by stakeholders to conclude the final peace agreement"
The path to the final peace agreement , according to Mr Musyoka, will move simultaneously with the other issues, such as post conflict and reconstruction programme and spreading the gospel to the Whole world that the people of Sudan need help to reconstruct their lives.
He insisted that the signing of the peace deal is a strong foundation for a comprehensive peace agreement, which in turn will have a positive effect on Darfur. "Just like Apartheid in South Africa, matters got to a stage where they are irreversible,"