Page last updated at 18:06 GMT, Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Mass disarmament begins in Sudan

Members of Sudan People's Liberation Army training (Archive picture)
Southern Sudan is trying to recover from decades of war

The world's biggest operation to demobilise soldiers and militias has started in Sudan, the UN says.

Some 180,000 men, women and children who fought in the civil war between north and south are to return to civilian life over the next four years.

The demobilisation was agreed under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005 to end the 21-year conflict.

It was officially launched in Blue Nile State with the disarmament of 15 adults and is now to be rolled out elsewhere.

The BBC's Sudan correspondent, Amber Henshaw, says some critics have questioned whether there is sufficient political will to see the reintegrate ex-soldiers and militias through.

The north-south conflict cost an estimated 1.5 million lives and ended in the setting up of an autonomous secular government in the south.

Politicians representing the north and south are now in a fragile power-sharing coalition government.

As part of the 2005 deal, nationwide elections are due to take place this year, to be followed in 2011 by a referendum on whether the south should secede.

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