|Sudanese President Omar el Bashir (r) holds hands with former leader of the Sudan People's Liberation Army John Garang|
The leader of southern Sudan's former rebel group was sworn in as vice president in the country's new government Saturday under the terms of a peace deal signed earlier this year. The inauguration and the signing of an interim constitution begin a new era of government in the country.
For years, Sudan People's Liberation Army leader John Garang and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir were bitter enemies, bombing and blasting one another in battles across the south.
On Saturday, the two men became colleagues in the capital Khartoum. Mr. Garang was sworn in as Sudan's first vice president, opening an era of close collaboration with Mr. Bashir.
The two men also signed Sudan's interim constitution, which outlines how the new administration is to govern for the next six years.
Former member of Parliament Stephen Missa Dhunya spoke to VOA, while attending the inauguration.
"I feel very happy," he said. "This recently signed [Interim] constitution will enable every Sudanese to experience peace. We have suffered a lot. And I think, with this peace agreement and the newly-signed constitution, we will be able to recover, or to build what we have lost."
Mr. Dhunya said, in the coming days, Mr. Bashir and Mr. Garang will be appointing new members of parliament.
The new government and interim constitution arise out of a peace agreement that the Sudanese government and the southern rebel group signed at the beginning of this year to end almost 22 years of war that killed two million people and displaced four million more.
The conflict pitted the largely Muslim, Arab north against the mostly black, Christian and animist south, and involved battles over access to oil, as well as religious and cultural issues.
The agreement spells out how the two sides will share power and wealth, conduct their security systems, and other arrangements.
After six years, southerners can decide, through a referendum, whether or not to remain part of Sudan.
Many foreign dignitaries attended Saturday's inauguration, including U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Arab League head Amr Moussa, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick.
The deputy spokesman of the U.S. State Department, Adam Ereli, tells VOA that, while Saturday's event is what he calls an important and meaningful symbol of conflict resolution, much still remains to be done.
"There needs to be a government of national unity formed, a Cabinet formed," said Adam Ereli. "There needs to be this disbanding of militias in the south. There's a huge challenge of reconstruction and development."
Mr. Ereli says the two-year war in the Darfur region of western Sudan, which has killed tens of thousands and displaced more than a million, could threaten the North-South agreement, if not resolved.
Mr. Zoellick visited Darfur Friday, on his third visit to examine the situation there.