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South Sudan Rebels Still Refuse to Rejoin Unity Government


South Sudanese leaders say they are not ready to rejoin a unity government, even after Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir reorganized the Cabinet in a bid to satisfy them. As Nick Wadhams reports from Nairobi, the former rebels say the government is not meeting their most important demands.

There was some hope the Sudan People's Liberation Movement would reverse last week's decision to walk out of the coalition government after Mr. Bashir announced the Cabinet re-organization. More than a dozen ministers and advisers were replaced in the re-organization, which had been delayed for months.

But the SPLM says the National Congress Party should have waited to change the ministers until later this week, after Mr. Bashir met with the former-rebel leader and Sudanese Vice President Salva Kiir in Khartoum.

A chief SPLM official in Kenya, John Andruga Duku, tells VOA News that Mr. Bashir still must meet several other commitments under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement before it rejoins the government. Chief among them, he says, are the withdrawal of troops from border regions between north and south and the end of harassment of SPLM officials in Khartoum.

"Cabinet reshuffle is just one issue among a number of issues which the SPLM enumerated as a grievance but it is not the fundamental issue," Duku said. "But we also want to acknowledge the fact that the reshuffle is a positive step in the right direction in which we would like to move forward and see that other issues are addressed, because it is clearly not in the interest of the National Congress Party and the SPLM that the CPA is in crisis, which it is now."

The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between north and south Sudan ended more than two decades of civil war between the largely Christian Sudan People's Liberation Army in the south and the forces of the Sudanese government in the north, which is mostly Muslim. More than one-and-one-half-million people died.

But the deal had shown signs of strain in recent months, especially after the United Nations concluded that the north was refusing to withdraw some of its troops from areas of the south it had agreed to vacate. Tensions rose to a peak last week when the SPLM suspended its cooperation with the unity government.

South Sudan's Duku says it is up to Khartoum to set things right.

"The ball is really in the court of the National Congress Party and it is they who hold the key to what is happening now," Duku said. "From the beginning we are ready for constructive dialog but not to engage in endless dialog."

South Sudanese leaders are calling their decision to pull out of the government a wake-up call, and there was some hope that they would rejoin the government after the South Sudanese leader, Mr. Kiir, meets Mr. Bashir in the coming days.

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