By SARAH EL DEEB, Associated Press Writer
CAIRO, Egypt, Jan 16, 2005 (AP) — After recently making peace with southern rebels, Sudan’s government sealed a reconciliation deal with an umbrella opposition group on Sunday that ends a 16-year conflict and strengthens efforts to spread democracy in Africa’s largest country.
- Mohamed Osman Al Merghani
The government’s deal with the Eritrean-headquartered National Democratic Alliance follows last week’s signing in Nairobi of a peace treaty to end the 21-year southern civil war, which killed 2 million people and displaced 4 million more from their homes.
The latest deal, which was initialed here on Sunday and will be finalized with a major ceremony in Cairo on Feb. 12, was witnessed by Sudanese and NDA leaders plus Egyptian officials, including intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.
NDA spokesman Hatem al-Sir Ali said the agreement "complements the southern agreement" and focuses on "entrenching freedom and democracy" in Sudan.
"It is a real and important addition that also provides popular ... support for the Nairobi agreement," he added.
It was unclear how this agreement would affect efforts to resolve the 2-year Darfur conflict or the implementation of the southern deal.
"All parties and foundations need to commit to achieving unity and making it a viable option," Ali said.
The NDA was formed in 1989 in response to the coup that saw Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir seize power from Sudan’s last democratically elected prime minister, Sadiq el-Mahdi.
The alliance comprises 13 political groups opposed to el-Bashir’s Islamic-oriented government. Some of the groups have military wings, including the main southern group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. It also includes more than 50 professional unions and syndicates.
Some armed groups fought alongside the SPLA in southern Sudan, but also carried out a range of sabotage attacks and other lower-level violence against the Sudanese forces in northern and eastern areas of the country, mainly during the 1990s.
The SPLA has been engaged in separate talks with the government since 1997, leading to this month’s peace deal that calls for an autonomous south with its own army, national power and wealth sharing, religious freedom and a new constitution during a six-year interim period.
At the end of that period, the 10 southern states will hold a referendum on independence.
The NDA agreement, which followed talks that began with the government in December 2003, was initialed by Sudan’s federal government minister, Nafie Ali Nafie, and NDA vice president Gen. Abdel Rahman Saed. It calls for abolishing emergency laws, statutes restricting freedoms, and establishing new laws for Sudanese political parties.
It also seeks equitable participation of the opposition in Sudan’s government and forms a joint committee to discuss how many NDA members will participate in federal and local governments during the six-year transitional period.
The NDA’s opposition parties will also return to Sudan after 16-years exiled in Eritrea, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Further details of the agreement will be discussed in a press conference Monday.
Final negotiations had been stuck for several days over dissolving the NDA’s armed groups, but a joint committee has been formed under the agreement to look for ways to return rebels into Sudan’s army.
El-Mahdi’s Umma party, a former NDA member and one of Sudan’s largest opposition groups, and Darfur rebel movements are the only parties not yet to have reconciled their differences with the government.