The Sudanese government and the south's main rebel
group are optimistic they will sign a final peace agreement by the end of
the year as earlier promised. The rebel group says the situation in Dafur
is not affecting the talks. The spokesman for the Sudan People's
Liberation Army, Samson Kwaje, told VOA he is confident his group and the
Sudanese government will sign a final peace agreement by December 31,
ending 21 years of war.
During the U.N. Security Council meeting in Nairobi last month, the
parties promised they would sign a deal by the end of the year. Mr. Kwaje
said if the two sides do not finish their talks by the Christmas break,
they will do so by New Year's Eve.
"We are going on with discussions. We are supposed to end on [December]
23rd, and if we don't finish, then we will come back on the 27
[December]," he said.
Mr. Kwaje said all that remains is to work out timetables and other
details of implementing six protocols that have already been signed. The
protocols spell out arrangements on such things as how to share power,
wealth, and the confinement of
Islamic law to the north. Mr. Kwaje said the two sides are finalizing a
permanent cease-fire arrangement, the size of the joint army, and who will
fund that army.
Sudan foreign ministry spokesman Mohamed Ahmed Abdel Gaffar also told
VOA a deal is near. "... and at most [an agreement will be signed] within
the first week of January if not at the end of this month," said Mr.
The north-south war has claimed an estimated two million lives and
displaced many more since 1983. The conflict pits a largely Muslim north against
a Christian and animist south with oil-rich areas where local populations
have been forcibly removed to get to the oil.
Some analysts have been concerned that another Sudanese conflict, the
two-year-old war in the Darfur region of western Sudan, might affect the
process and outcome of the north-south talks.
A Sudan analyst with the South African-based Institute of Security
Studies, Richard Cornwell, says that the Sudanese government has been
dragging its feet on resolving the north-south negotiations, commonly
called the "Naivasha talks" named after the Kenyan town where most of the
discussions were held.
"The Darfurian crisis means that the government of Sudan probably has
an equal interest in continuing to hold that process hostage. Once it
signs Naivasha, it will be under increasing international pressure to
actually do something constructive about Darfur."
But Mr. Kwaje told VOA he does not feel the influence of Darfur in the
north-south talks. He says the two conflicts are unrelated. The Sudanese
government maintains it is committed to bringing peace both to the south