South Sudan leader calls Darfur rebel meet in Juba

JUBA (Reuters) — South Sudan’s president has called for rebels from the western Darfur region to meet in his capital to build consensus ahead of possible peace talks to end a four-year-old insurgency and humanitarian crisis.

In a speech to donor nations on Wednesday in Juba, Salva Kiir also said peace in Sudan had to include the entire country and the Darfur rebels should form a joint committee to prepare for the meeting which should take place in April.

“I have personally called for an all-Darfur conference to take place in Juba in April and I will be calling on you to contribute in this endeavour,” Kiir, who is also Sudanese first vice president, told a donors conference in the capital of southern Sudan Juba.

Under a north-south peace deal signed in January 2005, Kiir’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) became head of an autonomous southern government and partners in the central government in Khartoum.

But that deal did not cover a separate rebellion in the remote Darfur region, where experts estimate 200,000 have been killed and 2.5 million driven from their homes in fighting between government-backed forces and rebels.

Washington calls the conflict in Darfur a genocide, a term Khartoum rejects and European governments are reluctant to use.

Kiir said he had asked the rebels to form a joint team to be the focal point of coordination for the meeting. The SPLM has good relations with the Darfur rebels as they advised and helped them during the early stages of the rebellion.

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