10 January 2005
DEAR readers yesterday will be a memorable day in history, as it marked the end of Africa's longest-running civil war, and opens a new chapter in the relations between the estranged south and the powerful north of Sudan. It also marks the beginning of a power and wealth sharing process that will be as much to the advantage of the south as the resultant peace will be to the benefit of all Sudanese people.
What is important now is that the final settlement, signed in neighbouring Kenya in the presence of an array of leaders from friendly countries, should hold. Prima facie, there is no reason for pessimism on this count. The provisions that are built into the agreement are finalized on the basis of wide-ranging discussions. They have been fully supported by both the government and rebel sides.
What should add strength to the agreement is the active involvement of third parties, including the Kenyan government and the United States. The presence of Colin Powell and other leaders from friendly countries and organizations, including the Arab League and the African Union, at the signing ceremony in Nairobi yesterday reinforces the strength of the agreement. As Colin Powell puts it, "This is a promising day for the people only if today's promises are kept".
The rival sides have covered much ground in the past two years, when Kenyan-mediated peace talks progressed. The agreement covers key aspects like power sharing and wealth sharing, which are both supplementary and complimentary in nature. At the end of a six-year transition period, there would be a referendum that would give an opportunity to the people of the south to decide whether to remain united with the north or separate. Having come to this point, there is little chance of the people asking for separation if the agreement on power and wealth sharing is executed in the best possible ways.
What is important is that the living conditions of the people should improve. Sudan is blessed with natural resources, long-flowing rivers, and a fertile land. Good governance should make a difference in the lives of the people. The donor nations lined up under the UN umbrella, to generously help Sudan in the transition period, would be stepping in with aid to the order of 1.5 billion this year. There also is expectation that the US will end its sanctions and restore diplomatic relations with Khartoum that were cut off some nine years ago. All this must help Sudan turn a new leaf in its development process.
For Sudan, however, solving the problem in the south meant only half the war won. Peace is yet to dawn on Darfur in the west, where too, like in the south, nearly 100,000 people have died not only due to violence in the past 22 months, but also due to the deterioration in the humanitarian conditions, famine, malnutrition and spread of diseases.
Dear readers, hope is that the present agreement will not meet the fate of the 1972 pact, reached in Addis Ababa that was declared void in a matter of 10 years. General Omar el-Bashir has cautiously proceeded on the path to peace ever since he took over in 1989, and the eventual success of the peace efforts is a matter of personal credit for him as well. But, he and the nation face an equally difficult calling in the west, where the current peace is tenuous. On its part, the government has agreed to stop military operations in the west, with a view to expediting a settlement. Outside mediation must help in a final settlement there too in the near future.
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