RUMBEK, Sudan, Jan 24, 2005 (AP) — Leaders of Sudan’s main southern rebel movement unanimously endorsed Monday an agreement to end Africa’s longest-running civil war, paving the way for a new constitution and power sharing government.
|SPLA troops line up during a public rally in Rumbek on January 10, 2005 to celebrate a final peace agreement with the Khartoum government that was signed in Kenya January 9. (AFP).|
Members of the 224-seat National Liberation Council, the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army’s legislative body, met for two days at their southern headquarters in Rumbek to discuss details of the deal, signed by their leader John Garang and Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha on Jan. 9 in neighboring Kenya.
Members asked questions about security arrangements, the division of wealth between north and south, and the structure of a new government, but proposed no amendments to the accord.
Sudan’s national Parliament also must sign off on the deal. Deliberations in the capital, Khartoum, begin Saturday.
Once ratified, the deal is legally binding on all sides, clearing the way for the drafting of a new constitution and formation of a government in which insurgents will receive 30 percent of seats. In six years, southern states will have an opportunity to vote on secession.
The 21-year war has pitted the Arab Muslim-dominated government in Khartoum against rebels fighting for greater autonomy and a larger share of the country’s wealth in the largely African Christian and animist south. More than 2 million people have died, mainly from war-induced famine and disease, and at least twice as many have fled their homes.
U.N. and U.S. officials hope the deal will help end Sudan’s other conflicts — a 23-month rebellion in the western Darfur region and a low intensity insurgency in the eastern Red Sea Hills.
Tens of thousands have been killed and nearly 2 million displaced in Darfur, where pro-government Arab militiamen known as the Janjaweed have attacked African villages in a campaign of burning, looting, raping and killing. The conflict erupted in February 2003, when two African rebel groups began fighting for more power and resources in the arid region.
More than 70,000 of the displaced have died of hunger and disease since March, though no firm figures exist for the direct toll of the fighting.