On Friday, the Islamic government of Sudan signed a permanent cease-fire with southern – and mostly Christian and animist – rebels. South African President Thabo Mbeki and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir were on hand to witness the signing of the agreement. A final peace settlement will be signed in January.
Friday's signing of the last remaining aspects of a peace deal between the Sudanese government and southern rebels is the culmination of a series of previous agreements made during more than two years of negotiations. They include an agreement that the South will enjoy autonomy for six years, followed by a referendum on independence, and the unification of the military if the South decides not to secede. It also agree to share the country’s oil wealth evenly between the two sides. Sharia law will remain in the north. Two million are aid to have died in the 21-year-old conflict, and up to four million displaced.
Iqbal Jhazbhay is a senior lecturer on Horn of Africa at the University of South Africa in Pretoria. He explained to English to Africa reporter that the South African government had also agreed to train SPLM officials how to set up and run their autonomous government. President Mbeki also discussed trade between South Africa and Sudan with his Sudanese counterparts during his appearance at the cease-fire signing ceremony on Friday. South African companies are competing to join a $21 million contract to improve Sudan’s railways. South Africa exports metals, vehicles and chemicals to Sudan – which exports in turn vegetables, animal fats, plastics and machinery.