Yemen hails peace accord signed in Sudan [Archives:2005/807/Local News]

January 13 2005

By Peter Willems
Yemen Times Staff

The Yemeni government has commended and supported the peace agreement signed last Sunday between the Sudanese government and the rebel group in the south, the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLA).

President Ali Abdullah Saleh sent a message to Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir on Monday to congratulate him for the peace agreement and that he wishes for there to be a new age of peace and stability in the country now that the signing should end two decades of civil war. The President also commented that along with the Sudanese people benefiting from the peace accord, the stability in Sudan will also benefit the Arab countries.

“Yemen considers that the peace agreement in Sudan, which ends the longest war in Africa, will help bring peace and security to the region,” Ahmed Al-Basha, Head of the African Department at Yemen's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Yemen Times. “The peace agreement is seen as a new sign of political and diplomatic life in Sudan and neighboring countries. It can create a new diplomatic atmosphere, and the accord will also help to push forward the development for the people of Sudan, which will give them a better future. The lack of stability and security has hindered development in the area.”

Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha and SPLA's leader John Garang signed the agreement in Nairobi, Kenya, and representatives from the international community, such as US Secretary of State Colin Powel, attended the ceremony. The two sides signed a cease-fire a week before.

“This is a glorious day for the Sudan,” said Al-Bashir on the day of singing. “It's not only a deal that ended a protracted war of untold suffering, but it is a new contract for all Sudanese.”

The war between the Sudanese government and the southern rebels lasted for 21 years, and over two million people, mostly from disease and famine, died while around four million Sudanese were displaced. The war erupted when the SPLA wanted to gain more in sharing wealth and power in the south.

Some officials have said that the new peace agreement could lead to a greater effort in ending strife in Sudan's western Darfur region.

“The United States and the world community expect the new partners to use all necessary means to stop the violence,” said Powell in Nairobi. “And we expect to see rapid negotiation of the crisis in Darfur.”

Arab militias, known as Janjaweed, are accused of killing over 70,000 and driving up to 1.4 million people from their villages since fighting began nearly two years ago. Refugees have reported that the Janjaweed fighters have slaughtered men, raped women and have looted their villages during their assaults.

The peace agreement included a six-month interim government, a plan to draft a new constitution and put together a transitional government in Khartoum, the capital, and another administration for the south. A transition period will last for six years, while national elections are planned to be held at the end of the fourth year. When the transition government nears the end of its term, Sudanese in the south will vote as to whether to secede.

Yemen has taken the initiative to help bring nations in the Horn of Africa closer together and ease tensions between neighboring countries. At the summit of the Sana'a Group held in the last week of December, made up of Yemen, Ethiopia and Sudan, President Saleh called on Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea to join the coalition that aims at promoting peace, security and development among nations.

“We hope that the other three countries will join because it will create cooperation for security, development and fighting terrorism, which are the three most important principles in the Sana'a Group,” said Al-Basha.

Relationships between Eritrea and both Sudan and Ethiopia have been strained in recent years. Saleh offered to launch an initiative to normalize relations between Eritrea and its two neighbors if each of the three countries accepted to participate in talks.

After the 1998-2000 war between Ethiopia and Eritrea over border areas that killed 70,000 people, a cease-fire has remained fragile. Ethiopia turned down a demarcation proposal established by an independent border commission last September and Eritrea warned that the rejection could lead to more fighting in the future.

The Sana'a Group was formed when the three countries met in October 2002.