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Sudan’s government endorses Darfur’s division into five states

May 5, 2011 (KHARTOUM) — The national government approved today a draft law to create two new states in Darfur making five the total number of states in the restive region of western Sudan.

Map of Darfur as per current regions: North, South and West Darfur. (Wikimedia Commons)

The reshaping of the territorial administration in Darfur was discussed in a national conference held in Kennana in 2008 as a means to ease the tribal tensions over the pasturage and water. The meeting also recommended the establishment of a regional authority to coordinate and plan joint projects.

However, the conference showed clear opposition to the establishment of a regional body with large executive powers as it was the case for South Sudan in accordance with a peace agreement signed in 2005.

According to today’s bill endorsed by the Sudanese cabinet in its regular meeting, the territory currently administrated by South and West Darfur states is to be divided into four states: Central Darfur, East Darfur, South Darfur, and West Darfur. North Darfur state is kept intact.

Zalingei is the capital of Central Darfur which covers a large part of Jebel Marra, while Ed Daein is the capital of East Darfur located in the south eastern part of the region. The former is the home of the Fur ethnic group while the later is inhabited by the Arab tribes.

Talks between the Sudanese government and the rebel groups in Doha are stalled over the administrative status of Darfur. However, the mediation proposed to establish a regional authority during the interim period and to hold a referendum to determine the future make-up of the region one year before general elections.

The Liberation and Justice Movement, seemingly is willing to accept the solution proposed by the mediation as it creates a legislative assembly besides the executive body. But the Justice and Equality Movement rejects this option saying they want a "government of Darfur" that represents the whole region at the level of the central government.

Kennana conference emphasized in its recommendations that the five states should depend directly from the central government and to not allow the regional administration to control it to avoid any future friction between the ethnic groups.

The Sudanese government said preparing a referendum over Darfur administrative status that will take place next July. Presidential adviser tasked with Darfur file said the vote is organized in line with the Abuja peace agreement signed in May 2006 with the rebel SLM of Minni Minnawi.

He also said that the government would cancel the referendum if an agreement is reached in Doha with the rebel groups.