Karel Prinsloo  /  AP
A Sudanese man cries Wednesday as he waits for the signing of the last three protocols between the Sudanese goverment and Sudan People's Liberation Army in Naivasha, Kenya.
updated 5/26/2004 4:38:29 PM ET 2004-05-26T20:38:29

Sudan’s government and rebels signed key agreements on Wednesday, resolving the last remaining issues needed to end Africa’s longest-running conflict.

The adversaries signed three protocols on power-sharing and how to administer three disputed areas in central Sudan, wrapping up outstanding issues that had prevented them from reaching a final deal.

All that remains for the government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army to work out are procedural matters to end the 21-year civil war, in which more than 2 million people have died, mostly from war-induced famine.

The peace process taking place in Naivasha, 60 miles northwest of Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, does not include insurgents fighting a separate rebellion in Darfur region of western Sudan.

Will diplomatic solution lead to peace?
It could take months to determine whether the diplomatic solution will translate to peace on the ground. The signing of the agreements on Wednesday was delayed for several hours because of last-minute disputes over power-sharing.

A Western diplomat at the talks said U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell telephoned rebel leader John Garang to discuss the delays.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the signing will trigger a process leading to the establishment of normal relations with Sudan if certain conditions are met.

Boucher said these include the completion of a comprehensive peace agreement to end the southern conflict and an end to the violence in Darfur, where a 15-month rebellion has made more than 1 million people homeless.

U.N. officials have described the situation in Darfur as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, but the rebels from Darfur are not involved in the peace process taking place in Naivasha.

The latest effort to end the southern conflict began in Kenya in 2002 and the Sudanese government and the rebels have already agreed on how to share the wealth in Africa’s largest country and what to do with their armed forces during a six-year transition period.

Power-sharing a thorny problem
But the talks stalled in recent months as the parties wrangled over how to share power in a transitional government, whether the capital, Khartoum, should be governed under Islamic law and how Southern Blue Nile, Nuba Mountains and Abyei — areas in central Sudan — should be administered during the transition period.

The protocols signed Wednesday covered all those outstanding issues.

“This is not the final stretch of the peace process ... it is one of the giant steps,” Lazaro Sumbeiywo, the chief Kenyan mediator, said.

Human Rights Watch said Wednesday that the agreements should not deflect criticism of the situation in Darfur, where Arab militia, supported by the government, have been accused of conducting a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Arab militia attacked five villages in Darfur on Tuesday, killing 46 civilians, according to local sources, the New York-based group said in a statement.

“Ending the war in the south is a huge step forward, but in the western part of the country the Sudan government is taking a terrible step backward,” said Jemera Rone, a researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Further conflicts yet to be resolved
Yasir Arman, a rebel official, said the agreements reached between the southern rebels and the government could be used as a model to solve conflicts in other parts of Sudan.

“This should impact positively on the situation in Darfur and eastern Sudan for a comprehensive and just peace,” he said.

The southern conflict broke out in 1983 after the rebels from the mainly animist and Christian south took up arms against the predominantly Arab and Muslim north.

The insurgents say they are fighting for better treatment and for southerners to have the right to choose whether to remain part of Sudan. Southerners will vote in a referendum at the end of the transition on whether to secede.

Although often simplified as a religious war, the conflict is fueled by historical disputes and competition for resources, including major oil reserves.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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