Sudan: peace deal imminent with Eastern Front?
From Agence-France Press, Oct. 10:
Sudan government, eastern rebels eye peace deal in coming days
KHARTOUM — The Sudanese government and eastern rebels are poised to sign a final peace deal ending years of fighting in the coming days, a senior Sudanese official said.
Khartoum and the Eastern Front reached agreement on power-sharing late Monday in the Eritrean capital Asmara, clearing the way for a comprehensive deal, top government negotiator Mustafa Osman Ismail said.
"The road is now clear for signing the final agreement early next week," the state news agency SUNA quoted him as saying.
A deal would be the third peace agreement signed by Khartoum with rebel groups in various parts of the country -- the largest in Africa -- in less than two years.
An agreement between Khartoum and the main rebel faction in the war-torn western region of Darfur was signed in May this year but has failed to take hold.
A landmark peace deal was also signed between Khartoum and southern rebels in January 2005, bringing an end to more than two decades of deadly civil fighting.
The former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement is now in a national unity government with President Omar al-Beshir's National Congress but relations have often been strained.
The latest round of negotiations between Khartoum and a coalition of eastern rebel factions known as the Eastern Front resumed after a ceasefire agreement was reached on June 19.
The two sides had already concluded agreements on security and wealth-sharing.
Officials said the signing of a power-sharing protocol meant that only a few smaller outstanding issues and the details of the agreement's implementation were to be discussed.
According to SUNA, the document agreed upon Monday was initialled by the speaker of Kassala state legislative council Ahmed Hamid for Khartoum, and Eastern Front chief Mussa Mohammed Ahmed for the rebel side.
The details of the latest agreement were not immediately available.
Eastern Front secretary general Mabruk Mubarak Salim said in an interview with the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat published Tuesday that a special development fund had been set up for Sudan's impoverished eastern provinces.
"A fund dedicated to the East's 'deadly trio' -- namely education, health and water -- has been set up. It will provide 600 million dollars over five years in a bid to solve these problems," he said.
The Eastern Front was created last year by the region's largest ethnic group, the Beja, and the Rashidiya Arabs, and has similar aims to its better-known counterparts in Darfur: greater autonomy and control of resources.
Its members have waged a low-level insurgency, and Sudan says the push to defuse the eastern crisis is part of efforts to pacify the whole country by building on peace pacts reached recently with other rebels.
Mustafa Osman Ismail, also a senior presidential adviser, said Beshir and Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa would attend the signing ceremony of the final peace deal.
A definitive date and venue have yet to be announced but observers said the ceremony would likely be signed in Asmara to give credit to Eritrea for brokering the peace agreement.