Sudan’s government and the main rebel alliance agreed on a historic peace accord on Monday to end the 17-year-old conflict.
The Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), a coalition of rebel groups from the western region of Darfur and the southern states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, signed the peace agreement at a ceremony in Juba, capital of neighbouring South Sudan, which hosted and helped mediate the long-running talks since late 2019.
The final agreement covers key issues around security, land ownership, transitional justice, power sharing, and the return of people who fled their homes because of war.
It also provides for the dismantling of rebel forces and the integration of their fighters into the national army.
The deal is a significant step in the transitional leadership’s goal of resolving multiple, deeply rooted civil conflicts.
The US, UK and Norway in a joint statement on Monday said they welcomed the peace agreement as a first step in rebuilding stability in the country.
“It is an important step in restoring security, dignity, and development to the population of Sudan’s conflict-affected and marginalised areas. We believe the formal agreement must be followed up with local peace and reconciliation efforts in the conflict-affected areas,” the countries said in the statement.
Conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile erupted in 2011, following unresolved issues from bitter fighting there in Sudan’s 1983-2005 civil war.
More than 300,000 people were killed in Darfur since rebels took up arms there in 2003, according to the United Nations.
Leaders of the SRF raised their fists in celebration after signing the agreement.
Sudanese Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok and several ministers flew to Juba on Sunday, the official news agency SUNA reported, where he met South Sudan President, Salva Kiir.
Hamdok said finding a deal had taken longer than first hoped after an initial agreement in September 2019.
Both military chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Hamdok were in attendance on Monday, while Kiir oversaw the ceremony.
The rebel forces took up arms against what they said was the economic and political marginalisation by the government in Khartoum.
They are largely drawn from non-Arab minority groups that long railed against Arab domination of successive governments in Khartoum, including that of toppled President Omar al-Bashir.
The rebel groups that signed the agreement include the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Minni Minawi’s Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), both of the western region of Darfur.
Rebel members of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) had provisionally initialled the agreement with the government late on Saturday.
However, Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) faction led by Abdelwahid Nour and a wing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) headed by Abdelaziz al-Hilu refused to take part.