Khartoum vows commitment to year-old peace

KHARTOUM (AFP) — Sudan pledged to implement a historic north-south peace deal on its first anniversary, but aid agencies said there was little to celebrate as peace dividends were slow to come for many Sudanese.
“Sudan and its national government renews its steadfast determination to implement all the articles of the peace agreement,” a foreign ministry statement said on the eve of the first anniversary of the accords.

On January 9, 2005, Sudanese President Omar Bashir’s Islamist regime and the mainly Christian southern rebels signed the deal that put an end to a war that lasted 21 years, killed 1.5 million people and displaced four million.

Its main partners, Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP) and the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) of Salva Kiir, are organising a series of events to mark a year since the signing of the accords. Celebrations will culminate later Monday in Juba, the capital of the south, with an event to be kicked off with a keynote speech by southern leader Kiir, who is also Sudan’s first vice president. Delegates from the Inter-Governmental Agency on Development (IGAD), the east African group that sponsored the talks that led to the signing of the deal, were also expected to attend, along with other dignitaries. Thousands of people began flocking to the event’s venue, the Peace Square, early in the morning, with cultural shows and performances and other entertainment scheduled throughout the day.

But aid agencies said there was little cause for celebration, as the people had yet to see peace dividends on the ground and conflict continued in the western region of Darfur and the eastern part of the country. “The peace agreement signed a year ago was a momentous achievement,” said Sorcha O’Callaghan, spokesperson for a coalition of six international aid agencies operating in Sudan.

“With conflict still raging in Darfur and insecurity in the south and east of the country, many Sudanese have little to celebrate,” O’Callaghan added.

The war between government forces and ethnic minority rebels in Darfur has left as many as 300,000 people dead and an estimated 2.5 million displaced, creating what the UN called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Many had hailed the north-south peace deal as an historic achievement and expressed optimism that it could be used as a model to resolve the country’s other conflicts. “Sudan hopes the peace will continue to strengthen and that the crisis in Darfur will be overcome in the same way peace was achieved in the south,” according to the foreign ministry statement. It also called on the international community to deliver on pledges it made at a donors’ conference in Norway last April for $4.5 billion in development assistance for war-affected areas of Sudan. The aid agencies said the “delays have meant that little has reached the struggling communities who are trying to rebuild their lives.”

Analysts said the agreement itself is still threatened on several fronts, including a reluctance by the north to loosen its grip on power and a south already leaning towards independence.

They have also argued that the international community has fallen short of its pledge to prop up the north-south peace deal, offering massive humanitarian aid but failing to assist the political process.

Foreign Minister Lam Akol himself urged Washington Sunday to support the peace deal and reiterated an appeal for financial pledges to be paid during a meeting Sunday with US congressman Jim Kolbe.

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