Home | News    Friday 14 July 2006

Neglected east Sudanese upbeat on govt talks


July 13, 2006 (KHARTOUM) — Talks to end a long-simmering insurgency in Sudan’s remote but economically important eastern region moved a step forward on Thursday, delegates to a confidence-building conference said.

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A Beja man rides his camel in the rebel-controlled area of Eastern Sudan, near the border with Eritrea in this picture taken June 4, 2005. (Reuters).

The government sponsored meeting was held to solicit the views of delegates from under-developed eastern Sudan to help bolster peace talks with eastern rebels currently taking place neighbouring Eritrea.

"We will support the east, not just for itself ... but for the whole of Sudan," Sudan’s Second Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha said in his key-note speech, in which he pledged to develop the region.

"We applaud all who take part ... we applaud our brothers in Eritrea," he added.

Eastern delegates welcomed the speech and the conference as a sign that the Khartoum government acknowledged problems of underdevelopment in their homeland, but said it remained to be seen whether the government would act on its pledges.

"What they’re saying is good. But all the time, what they are saying is not the same as what they are doing ... His speech was a good start," said Mahmoud Ghander, a member of the Beja Congress Party who had come to monitor the conference.

The political Beja Congress Party is linked to the armed Beja Congress rebel group, which controls an area of the east called Hamesh Koreb along the border with Eritrea. The Beja is the main eastern tribe.

Eastern rebels, whose low-intensity revolt has been in progress for about a decade, share the complaints of their counterparts in Darfur in the west and in southern Sudan that Khartoum fails to develop the regions while exploiting their natural resources.

The drought-stricken east has some of the highest malnutrition rates in the country, yet is home to Sudan’s largest gold mine, its main port and a major oil pipeline.

"We want the government to include us in power-sharing (and) wealth. We want development. The government says it will do this. We want to bring our sons who are carrying guns and the government closer together," eastern delegate Mohamed Khan said.

In June, Sudan’s government and eastern rebels signed a pact to cease hostilities and agreed a framework for future talks.


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