Ceasefire, aid proposed in mooted Sudan-rebel deal

Agence France-Presse

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Sudan and rebels in South Kordofan would adopt an immediate ceasefire and allow aid to reach more than one million people

KHARTOUM, Sudan – Sudan and rebels in South Kordofan would adopt an immediate ceasefire and allow aid to reach more than one million people, says a proposed agreement issued as peace talks broke off last week.

Agence France-Presse obtained a copy of the draft on Sunday, February 23.

African Union mediators presented the proposal for Khartoum and rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) on Tuesday, when the talks in Ethiopia adjourned after both combatants traded accusations.

There are no reliable figures for how many people have died in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, where the rebels have been fighting for nearly three years, but the United Nations says an estimated 1.2 million have been displaced or otherwise affected.

Sudanese authorities have restricted access to the war zones for aid workers, journalists and foreign diplomats, although relief has reached people in government-controlled areas.

There has been no aid access into SPLM-N zones from within Sudan since 2011, and a senior UN official said last year that people were surviving on “roots and leaves”.

Several days of negotiation — the first in nearly a year — failed to make progress, but a source close to the talks said both sides left to study the draft agreement, dated February 18.

The rebels and government would “cease all hostilities unconditionally” under the proposal, which says an AU-designated “third party” would monitor the ceasefire.

“The Parties shall facilitate the immediate and safe delivery and movement of humanitarian assistance to all affected persons,” it says.

Chief mediator Thabo Mbeki said last week that the rebel and government delegations would consult on “proposals” from the mediation team, but he did not elaborate.

Talks are supposed to resume on February 28.

During the first round in Addis Ababa, the head of the rebel delegation, Yassir Arman, said Khartoum wants “to freeze this war without giving any solutions to the humanitarian situation and the political situation”.

‘Marginalized areas’

The government accused SPLM-N of raising issues unrelated to the two war zones of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

Ibrahim Ghandour, who leads the Sudanese negotiators, had begun the talks by saying they should focus on security, political and humanitarian aspects “concurrently and as one package” for South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

SPLM-N has said humanitarian issues should be addressed first. They want the wars in “marginalised areas” including South Kordofan and Blue Nile to stop ahead of a national constitutional conference to address the root causes of conflict.

The ethnic uprisings in the two states, and an older insurgency in the Darfur region, are fuelled by complaints of economic and political neglect by the Arab-dominated regime.

A day after talks broke off last week, the rebels rained rockets down on Kadugli, the South Kordofan capital, official radio reported.

In the draft obtained by AFP, the government and rebels would “affirm the need for an inclusive and holistic process of national dialogue and constitutional reform”.

Such a process would uphold the principles of democracy, unity in diversity, and the rights and equality of all citizens, it says, adding that the broader national dialogue would not be prejudiced by talks on South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

A Sunday editorial in Khartoum’s The Citizen newspaper said some leaders of the ruling National Congress Party still insist on “partial solutions”.

They hope to weaken an alliance between SPLM-N and Darfur rebels by dealing with South Kordofan and Blue Nile in isolation, it said.

“If both sides are genuine, there has to be a compromise” between the government and SPLM-N, Farouk Mohammed Ibrahim, chairman of the Sudanese Organisation for Defence of Rights and Freedoms, told Agence France-Presse. –  Rappler.com

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