Home | News    Monday 21 July 2003 (Date first published: 21 July 2003).

Sudan says committed to peace talks in Kenya

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By David Mageria

NAIROBI, July 21 (Reuters) - Sudan’s government sent officials to meet Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki on Monday, signalling a renewed commitment to Kenyan peace efforts after last week pouring scorn on proposals put forward by mediators.

Sudan’s northern government and the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) have been fighting a war in Africa’s largest country for 20 years. The conflict, over religious freedom, oil and ideology, has killed around 20 million people.

Sudan took issue with the Kenyan-hosted mediators proposing two separate armies and central banks for the south and the north and exempting the capital Khartoum in the north from Islamic sharia law.

Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was quoted as saying mediators from the east African Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) should "dissolve them (the proposals) in water and drink them".

But on Monday, Bashir sent senior officials with a message to Kibaki to say Khartoum still believed the IGAD peace process was "capable of achieving peace in Sudan", a statement from the Sudanese embassy in Nairobi said after talks finished.

However, the statement said that for peace to be achieved there should be a "fair, sustainable and balanced" peace agreement, without giving no further details of the meeting.

Peace talks are expected to resume this week.

Sudan’s deputy ambassador to Kenya, Ahmed Dirdeiry, said in remarks published on Monday that peace prospects were at their "grimmest" after the chief mediator put forward the proposals which he said favoured southern rebels.

"This is the grimmest stage of the peace process," Dirdeiry told the EastAfrican weekly paper.

Last year, the two sides agreed to waiver Islamic law on non-Muslim areas and to allow southerners a referendum on secession after a six year transitional period.

Dirdeiry said the mediators had ignored the agreement and handed the south to SPLA without waiting for the referendum.

Also taking issue with proposals on wealth and power, he said it was unfair to give the south half the country’s oil revenues and the vice-presidency, given that southern Sudan only represented 20 to 25 percent of the population.

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