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Sudan Government, Southern Rebels Sign Peace Deal


The Sudanese government and the southern rebel group called the Sudan People's Liberation Movement have signed a comprehensive peace agreement to end almost 22 years of war.

Euphoria filled Nairobi's Nyayo Stadium Sunday as thousands of northern and southern Sudanese broke out into spontaneous song, dance, cheers and prayers, overjoyed that bitter adversaries for over two decades had finally agreed to make peace.

Sudanese vice president, Ali Osman Taha, and Sudan People's Liberation Movement leader, John Garang, signed the peace deal in front of more than a half-dozen heads of state, senior officials, and representatives of governments from around the world.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was among foreign dignitaries who witnessed the signing.

The peace agreement spells out how the north and south are to share wealth and power, how they will manage their armies jointly and separately, the balance between state and religion, and other arrangements.

It comes after more than two years of often-rocky negotiations in Kenya.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki praised the agreement for ending a war that has claimed more than two million lives and displaced many more.

He urged the Sudanese government and rebels to honor what they have signed.

"Both parties will continue to face many trials in a process of implementation of the agreement," said Mr. Kibaki. "However, we have confidence that they have the ability and the commitment to resolve any arising challenges in a peaceful way."

Secretary of State Powell also used the opportunity to urge an end to the two-year-old conflict currently taking place in the Darfur region of western Sudan, where the United States and other governments have said "genocide" against the black population has taken place.

"These new partners for peace must work together immediately to end the violence and the atrocities that continue to occur in Darfur - not next month or in the interim period, but right away, starting today," said Mr. Powell. "The United States and the world community expect the new partners to use all necessary means to stop the violence, and we expect to see rapid negotiation to resolve the crisis in Darfur."

For many of the people who attended the signing ceremony, some missing arms and legs, Sunday's event was a dream they had long hoped for.

Southern Sudanese peace worker and activist Awot Deng explains: "We have lost our children, we have lost our husband[s], we have lost our brothers and we are separated from our families and we are displaced and we have been enslaved. So for us to have this peace agreement, it shows us that we are going to start from the beginning, to rebuild our life, to be able to take care of our children who are left orphans. This is not a peace that has come from no where. [It] is a peace that [is] coming through bloodshed."

Hopes are high that what was signed Sunday will have a real impact in the region.

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