Sudanese peace process re-initiated

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afrol News, 15 October - The Sudanese government and the rebel group Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) today agreed on resuming negotiations for peace in the Sudan. The agreement provides for a cessation of hostilities, contrary to the last, failed peace agreement.

Government and SPLM/A representatives today met in Machakos, Kenya, and agreed on a Memorandum of Understanding, which provides for renewed peace negotiations, a ceasefire and "creating and maintaining a conducive atmosphere throughout the negotiations until all the outstanding issues in the conflict are resolved." 

The agreement follows up the promising but failed July peace agreement of Machakos, when a framework of a peace agreement had been agreed upon. According to the July agreement, the people of South Sudan would be enabled to determine whether to establish their own, independent state within six years.

The July agreement on a framework for peace however did not mean that hostilities between the parties ceased. The agreement was not a full peace agreement and a ceasefire was not included. An escalation in the fighting over the last months was the result, as the parties wanted to be in control of the most extensive area possible before a complete peace deal was signed. 

This escalation of hostilities however meant that the peace process was put on ice. Negotiations, which were to be resumed on 12 August, had stalled until the current meeting in Machakos. Observers already believed the historic peace chance had drifted away.

SPLA spokesman Samson Kwaje told UN sources he was content with the quick truce agreement reached in Machakos today. The agreement had covered the entire country including the eastern front which, he said, the government originally wanted excluded from the deal. 

The ceasefire agreement also explicitly said it was "including allied forces and affiliated militia." This, according to Mr Kwaje, meant that also the opposition grouping National Democratic Alliance had to respect the truce. The SPLM/A was to give orders to implement the truce immediately.

The 19-year-old Sudanese civil war has been the most violent in African history. It has left at least 2 million civilians dead and many more displaced. Today's deal is historic, as it is the "first politically motivated ceasefire agreement signed between the government and rebels" during the entire civil war, UN sources report.

Reactions to the Machakos truce agreement have generally been positive. The government and opposition in Khartoum are reported to have hailed the signing. The SPLM and other Southern Sudanese armed groups are positive. 

Also the African Union (AU) hailed the new development. AU leader Amara Essy today welcomed the signing of the Machakos deal, saying the two parties were "moving one step closer to achieving a just and sustainable peace in the Sudan." 

Mr Essy however urged both parties "to maintain a period of tranquillity that they have committed themselves to, in order to build confidence among themselves and their people and to allow the negotiations to precede in a climate of peace, tolerance and serenity." Therefore, both should "refrain from any further military offensive."

The African Union was to "extend all possible support to the Machakos peace process on the Sudan," Mr Essy stated. 

Also the European Union (EU), one of Sudan's main donors, yesterday hailed the resumption of the peace process and in particular the "cessation of hostilities in all areas." The EU supported IGAD and Kenya's facilitative role in the process and reiterated its "readiness to give strong support to a peace agreement and accompany Sudan on a path of peace consolidation."

Sources: Based on AU, EU, UN, press reports and afrol archives

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