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Peace Agreement Will 'Lead to a New and Prosperous Sudan,' says Rebel Leader - 2004-05-30

The leader of Sudan's southern rebel movement has laid out his vision for the country's future in a speech in Nairobi. The official, John Garang of the Sudan People's Liberation Army, signed a peace agreement on Wednesday with the Sudanese government, paving the way for an end to a 21-year civil war that killed two million people.

Mr. Garang received a warm and jubilant welcome, as he met Sunday with more than a 1,000 members of the Sudanese community in Nairobi to explain the details of the new peace agreement.

The SPLA chief said the accord he signed with the Sudanese government will lead to a new and prosperous Sudan, with racial and religious tolerance.

"The solution to the Sudanese problem is to create a stable Sudanese state, with a self-sustaining economy, and a stable, inclusive government, in which all different ethnic groups, different tribes, different religious groups agree upon a form of governance, and are equal stakeholders with equal opportunities, a state in which they are able to co-exist in harmony and development," he said.

Mr. Garang said the war is ending, because neither side could win on the battlefield, and they were under both domestic and international pressure to strike a deal.

"This peace agreement was reached, not necessarily because the parties wanted to, but because both parties were forced to," he said. "We negotiated an agreement, because we were forced to by a set of pressures. The cost of continuing the war was felt by both sides to be much higher than the cost of stopping the war. So, we stopped the war."

The Sudan People's Liberation Army took up arms in 1983 to demand better treatment for southerners, who are predominately black Christians and animists, from the Muslim Arab-controlled government in Khartoum.

Under terms of the deal signed last week, the government and the SPLA will share power for a six-year transition period at both the national and regional level. After that, the south can hold a referendum on whether to remain part of the country.

During the interim period, Mr. Garang will serve as president of the southern region, and first vice president in the national government.

The new accord is not the final document to be negotiated. The two sides plan talks in Kenya in June on a final cease-fire, and technical aspects of implementing the agreement.

The deal also does not address a separate civil war in Sudan's western Darfur region, where 15 months of fighting have displaced more than one million people. The African Union plans to send officials to Darfur this week to begin monitoring a cease-fire.