Home | News    Monday 14 July 2003

Sudanese government sees "setback" at peace talks in Kenya

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by Mohamed Ali Saeed

KHARTOUM, July 13 (AFP) — The failure of the latest negotiations in Kenya to produce a draft peace deal between the Sudanese government and the southern rebels is a "setback," a senior official was quoted as saying Sunday.

The official, Presidential Peace Advisor Ghazi Salah Eddin Atabani, blamed the mediators in Kenya for the stalemate, and urged them to come back with "entirely new proposals" when talks resume in 10 days.

Political analyst Hassan Mekki said meanwhile that the outcome of the talks on Saturday was "bad news" for all the people who have been yearning for peace but expected the current peace process to continue.

A sixth round of talks aimed at ending Sudan’s 20-year civil war between the government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) rebels ended Saturday with the two sides failing to agree on a draft peace accord in Nakuru, Kenya.

The proposals for a final settlement were drawn up by mediators of the Kenya-based Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which groups seven east African states, including Sudan and Kenya.

The trouble caused by the proposals "constitutes a setback in the ongoing negotiations," Atabani was quoted as telling independent Akhbar Al Youm daily in Nakuru before his return here Sunday.

Atabani put the blame mainly on the IGAD Secretariat whose proposals "differ largely" from the Machakos Protocol, a peace blueprint forged in Kenya last year, and from previous agreements.

They "pave the way for secesion of southern Sudan while Machakos calls for unity," Atabani was quoted as saying.

He said the proposals place southern Sudan "entirely in the hands of the (rebel) movement and ignore other southern political groups and armed factions, " which he believes would lead to instability after a peace deal.

He urged the secretariat to present "entirely new proposals" when the two two sides resume negotiations in 10 days.

The proposals concern power- and wealth-sharing as well as security arrangements during an envisaged six-year period of autonomy for the south before a referendum is held to determine whether or not it remains part of Sudan.

In July 2002, Khartoum and the SPLA signed a peace agreement in Machakos, Kenya, setting out a six-year period of self-rule for the south before the plebiscite on self-determination.

SPLA spokesman Samson Kwaje said a stumbling block was the government’s refusal to suspend Islamic law in the capital Khartoum during the transition period when mediators had proposed that the city serve as the joint capital.

The government also rejected a proposal to carve out an area out of Khartoum and designate it the joint capital, he told AFP from the talks venue.

Islamic law applies in all government-controlled regions of Sudan.

The government also demanded that SPLA troops be integrated into the national army during the transition period, rejecting the idea that both sides maintain their own armies during the interim period, according to Kwaje.

The government delegation and SPLA representatives will meet again on July 23 to try to break the deadlock, Kwaje said.

On Wednesday the rebels accused the authorities in Khartoum of trying to scupper hard-won gains in the long-running peace process by calling for a change in mediators, from IGAD to the African Union (AU).

With trouble brewing in both western and eastern Sudan, the government did not want "to see a resurgence of trouble in southern Sudan," Mekki said.

Northern opposition groups such the Democratic Unionist Party and others which have been excluded from the negotiations meanwhile urged the mediators to step up the pressure on both sides to bridge the gaps.

The SPLA has been fighting since 1983 to end domination of the mainly Christian and animist south by the Arab Muslim government in Khartoum.

The conflict in Africa’s largest country has claimed an estimated 1.5 million lives and displaced some four million people.

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