Home | News    Friday 2 January 2004

Sudanese peace talks continue on disputed areas

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NAIROBI, Jan 02, 2003 (dpa) — The Sudanese peace talks resumed in Kenya Friday after a one-day New Year’s break, with the administration of three disputed areas in central Sudan topping the agenda.

The Sudanese government and the country’s main rebel group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), both want to govern the Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile, and Abyei areas.

The government claims the areas fall under its jurisdiction according to arrangements made at the country’s independence, while the SPLA says people living in those areas face similar problems to southerners and should therefore be included in the south.

One option the two sides are looking at is whether the three areas should be autonomous, the Kenyan mediator of the talks, retired General Lazaro Sumbeiywo told Deutsche Presse-Agentur, dpa.

"They’ve been discussing the meaning of autonomy," he said, adding that there is debate about whether and how the areas should rule themselves and whether local populations should be consulted on future arrangements.

The sides are also finalizing a wealth-sharing agreement they made last month, said SPLA spokesman Yasser Arman.

In that agreement, the Sudanese government and the country’s main rebel group are set to receive an equal share of the country’s oil revenues, a source close to the talks told dpa last month.

Fifty percent of oil revenues are supposed to go to the north and 50 percent are supposed to go to the south, said the source, who asked not to be named.

The money is supposed to be distributed in the south by a yet-to-be-formed southern government, he said.

The row over the distribution of wealth between north and south Sudan has been one of the factors fuelling the country’s civil war, which has been raging since 1983 and has claimed an estimated two million people.

The conflict ostensibly pits the largely Christian, African south against the Islamic, Arab north, but analysts have said the war is as much about a struggle for resources and power between the SPLM/A and the Khartoum government based in the north as it is about religion and culture.

Observers are also keenly watching when the two sides will reach a final peace agreement. Government and SPLA officials had said they would wrap up the talks by December 31.

"Your guess is as good as mine," Sumbeiywo said when asked when the talks would conclude. Many officials and observers have predicted that a final peace agreement could be signed by the end of January.

The two sides also have to agree on how to share power before a final peace deal can be signed.

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