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Sunday, 21 July, 2002, 08:05 GMT 09:05 UK
Analysis: New hopes for Sudan peace
SPLA rebels
The SPLA rebels want autonomy from the Muslim north

There is still a long way to go before the Sudanese can be assured of a new era of peace.

The conflict between the mainly Muslim north and non-Muslim south has plagued the country for much of its history since independence from Britain in 1956.

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw welcomed reports that the Sudanese Government and rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) had reached a deal on key issues aimed at ending the civil war.

But there are a good number of old diplomatic hands in Africa experienced in the ways of Sudanese negotiations who will react to the positive noises coming from the Machakos talks in Kenya with a healthy measure of skepticism.

Change of policy

Suddenly it seems the government in Khartoum is indicating its preparedness to go down a political route that would have been anathema during the last two decades of civil war.


Agreement on the two key issues of self-determination for the people of south Sudan, and state and religion, is a significant breakthrough

Jack Straw
UK Foreign Secretary

As the rebel SPLM see it, Khartoum has relented on its intended policy to impose Islamic law in areas of the country that are patently un-Islamic in nature.

There is talk too of allowing the predominantly non-Muslim people of southern Sudan to vote in a referendum in six years in which secession will be an option.

But six years is a long time away and anything can happen.

In the meantime, the rebels have agreed tentatively to discuss proposals that imply a measure of national political integration - this may establish a process that becomes a foundation for a new united Sudan.

The question being asked is whether the Bashir administration means what it says, and recognises the need for a solution to this desperate prolonged war - or whether this is a ploy destined to go the way of all earlier peace plans.


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21 Jul 02 | Media reports
09 Jul 02 | Africa
02 Jul 02 | Africa
01 Jul 02 | Africa
17 Jun 02 | Africa
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