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Sudan Rebel Leader Calls for Unity Government - 2004-09-08


The leader of Sudan's southern rebel movement says the humanitarian crisis in the country's western Darfur region can only be solved by forming a new government of national unity.

Until last year, international attention in Sudan focused on the longstanding conflict between the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum and rebels operating in the mostly Christian and animist southern region of the country.

But the deaths of tens of thousands of people in Darfur and the displacement of more than a million others have shifted attention away from the larger north-south conflict.

Speaking on VOA's Straight Talk Africa program, the chairman of the southern-based rebel group, the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement, John Garang, described the Darfur situation as a tragedy. In the short term, he said the international community has a critical role to play in stopping the bloodshed.

"The population of Darfur has to be secured so that the intervention by the world body led by the AU [African Union] in terms of peace monitors that are now in Darfur is welcome so as to secure the population that is at risk. We have more than one million people displaced," he said.

In the long term, however, Mr. Garang said only the successful implementation of a comprehensive peace agreement will solve Sudan's woes. Talks between the SPLM and the government in the Kenyan town of Naivasha have yielded a basic framework for a power-sharing agreement. But issues remain to be settled and the talks are on hold.

Rebel leader John Garang says, until the accord is finalized and put into practice, Sudan's troubles will continue, including in Darfur, where local rebel groups have battled government-allied militias known as the Janjaweed.

"At the end of the day, there has to be a political solution. I do not see Naivasha and Darfur as being in conflict," he said. "On the contrary, they are complementary. As a matter of fact, the solution for Darfur is via Naivasha because the problem is not the Janjaweed as such. The Janjaweed are a tool of the Khartoum government. So the solution is to have a new government in Khartoum. It is this government of national unity that will have the correct frame of mind and the necessary political and moral will and capacity to address the issue of Darfur."

The U.S.-educated Mr. Garang described some of the Darfur-based rebel groups as part of a larger coalition seeking a new government through peaceful means.

The north-south peace framework negotiated at Naivasha would seat Mr. Garang as a vice president overseeing Sudan's southern region. The rebel leader says, once the accord is finalized, he and his movement will work tirelessly to ensure its full implementation.

Meanwhile, the United States has circulated a new Security Council draft resolution that would impose economic sanctions against Sudan if the government fails to protect civilians in Darfur, as it has promised to do. Key members of the Security Council, including Russia, have opposed sanctions in the past.

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