Home | News    Wednesday 23 February 2005

Two eastern Sudanese rebel groups merge

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ASMARA, Eritrea, Feb 23 (AFP) — Two eastern Sudanese rebel groups, the Beja Congress and the Free Lions, have merged to form a new party called the Eastern Front, officials from the organizations announced here Wednesday.

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The "suffering of the people of Eastern Sudan ... can come to an end only under one leadership and unified programmes and objectives," said Beja Congress chairman Mussa Mohammed Ahmed.

"We are ready for peace talks with the government based on the Naivasha model, the peace accord between Khartoum and South Sudan," he said, flanked by Free Lions chief Mabruk Mubarak Selim at a joint news conference.

The Naivasha agreement, concluded at a signing ceremony in Kenya in January, ended Sudan’s 21-year north-south civil war in Sudan pitting Khartoum against the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A).

The painstakingly negotiated accord ended Africa’s longest-running civil conflict with a series of power and wealth-sharing packages.

Like other Sudanese rebel movements, including those in the troubled western region of Darfur, the Eastern Front says its region has been a victim of "marginalisation" by Khartoum.

At the news conference in the Eritrean capital on Wednesday the front called for "a just sharing of the wealth of the national resource."

In early February, 14 people were killed when Sudanese police dispersed a riot in Port Sudan which they blamed on the Beja Congress.

The Beja Congress has disputed the official death toll and maintains that 36 people were in fact killed.

The Beja Congress claims to be the sole representative of eastern Sudan and last year, along with the Free Lions, withdrew from the national opposition umbrella National Democratic Alliance, charging its demands were not being taken into account in talks with Khartoum.

Last week, Khartoum agreed to negotiate with the Beja Congress as the legitimate representative of the people of eastern Sudan, according to the Sudan’s official SUNA news agency reported last week.

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