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Renewed Efforts Attempt to End Sudan War - 2002-04-12

In recent months, renewed international efforts to bring peace to Sudan have raised hopes of ending the country's 19 year civil war. In a report released Friday, aid agencies said these initiatives have to be merged for real progress to be made. Many observers believe there is a unique opportunity towards building peace in Sudan at the moment.

Hopes of ending the conflict were raised when warring parties agreed to four confidence-building proposals presented by U.S. special envoy, Senator John Danforth.

As a sign of growing international interest in peace-making, Britain and Norway also recently appointed their own special envoys to Sudan.

A new joint aid agency report released Friday, called The Key to Peace: Unlocking the Human Potential of Sudan, warns that these overlapping efforts could lead to confusion. Dan Silvey of Christian Aid says the various peace initiatives must be merged if they are to be effective.

"There is an enormous amount of international attention now for focusing on prospects for peace in Sudan," he said. "The U.S., the EU, the UK, Norway and the Egyptians, the Libyans, IGAD as well. What is needed of course is that these initiatives converge and are coherent and aren't used to undercut each other," he noted. "But equally not to give the space for the warring parties on both sides to play one off against each other. And I think there are some welcome signs of growing coherence amongst certainly international pressure and so on and this is one thing that we want to see encouraged."

Four British parliamentarians from the Associate Parliamentary Group for Sudan also attended the launch of the report. They were returning from a six day fact-finding mission to Sudan.

British parliamentarian David Drew says he thinks the most promising peace initiative is the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, or IGAD talks. IGAD is Sudan's longest running peace initiative. It was launched in 1993 and is chaired by Kenya with the involvement of Sudan's other neighbors, Uganda, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

However, Sudan's government is threatening to pull out of IGAD unless faster progress is made.

Mr. Drew says the international community should use its influence to revive the IGAD peace process.

"The key to this is to re-establish IGAD. There are, and I refer to at least one publication, a traffic jam of peace initiatives at the moment and I think that is causing some confusion," he said. "I think the very many different peace initiatives are not necessarily being helpful in their own right. So I would say to be definitive we need to re-establish IGAD. And I think the most effective thing the international community can do at the moment is bring political pressure to bear."

The aid agency report was jointly produced by Christian Aid, CARE, Oxfam, Save the Children, and Tearfund.

Rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army in the south have been fighting for greater autonomy from the government in the north since 1983.