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Hopes Fade for Peace in Sudan in 2005

It was a landmark year for Sudan. A peace agreement ended 21 years of civil war between north and south Sudan, but a bloody conflict in the western Darfur region still rages. As Noel King reports from Khartoum, gains that were made toward ending the violence have ended, and the death of a Sudanese hero has left many doubting that peace and unity are possible in Sudan.

The year in Sudan began with unbridled optimism. In January, the northern Islamist government and southern rebels ended a 21-year civil war with a Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

The ruling National Congress Party and former rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army agreed to protocols on wealth and power sharing. It was hoped that the agreement might provide a framework for ending the crisis in Darfur.

But nearly one year after the agreement was signed, southerners complain that concrete gains have not been seen.

Meanwhile, the Darfur region has been plunged into anarchy. A humanitarian crisis rages and the politics in the region is now more complex than ever.

Armed militias, known as janjaweed, still roam the area, murdering, raping and looting. Independent reports indicate the Sudan government armed those militias, a charge the government denies. The reports also state that government and militia forces participated in attacks on civilians.

African Union peacekeepers have failed to improve security, in some cases becoming targets of the militias.

Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim heads the largest Sudanese aid organization working in Darfur. He says Darfur is doomed to chaos because all the warring parties are not involved in the peace talks.

"I think the main concern is that the peace talks [are] not inclusive," he said. "This is one of the major things. If it is not inclusive that means you are not taking all parties to the conflict on board. So you will have all these problems with the others that ... are not included in the talks. We are not going to do anything. We are not committed to any kind of agreements they have done. These militias, they are not committed to any agreements which have been made in Abuja. They are not part of it."

Dr. Mudawi says the only solution is to invite dozens of factions - no matter how small - to the peace talks. He warns that a peace agreement between larger rebel groups and the government will be worthless if all the militias are not represented.

The tribalism in Darfur mirrors similar problems in southern Sudan. The January peace agreement has been called non-inclusive by northern opposition and southern militias and tribes who were not included in the power sharing.

And while southern Sudan formed its own government in October, the south was also to share equal power with the north in a unity government. But southerners allege they have been cut out of key ministries and the north is unwilling to share power.

Worse, say southerners, the agreement has brought no changes for southern Sudanese.

Dr. Abendego Akok is head of the Juba University Center for Peace and Justice Studies in Khartoum. He says that in January he had unwavering faith in the agreement. That has changed.

"The National Congress and the SPLM, they didn't take the time to be very serious," he said. "And I think it is important for us to tell them, let us be serious in implementing the agreement so that the peace dividend is seen by the citizens. Until now they have never seen anything."

Many believe the south would be in a stronger position were it not for the death of John Garang. The immensely popular former rebel leader died in a helicopter crash in early August, just three weeks after he assumed the mantle of vice president.

Mr. Garang's death spurred unconfirmed rumors that he had been assassinated by his former northern foes. The rumors sparked rioting and clashes between north and south Sudanese and illustrated that deep-seated racial tension in Sudan would not be banished by a peace accord.

Alfred Taban is chairman of Sudan's largest English language newspaper. He says the agreement was wobbly from the outset.

"Even before the death of Garang things were not going very well," he said. "There was definitely a lack of enthusiasm from the side of the government to implement the CPA [Comprehensive Peace Agreement]. The death of Garang virtually wiped out all hopes; but hopes were already fading right shortly after the signing of the agreement. People thought the implementation of the agreement would be done speedily and with enthusiasm. That has not been in evidence."

The death of John Garang was also a blow to the prospect of peace in Dafur. He wanted to unite Sudan's marginalized areas, including Darfur. But his successor, Salva Kiir, has shown less interest in the plight of Darfuris.

Mr. Taban says a unified Sudan is now unlikely.

"Salva Kiir does not give a damn [about] Darfur," he said. "The majority of southerners don't give a damn of [about] Darfur. It was really mostly Garang's own charisma. That's why he was able to carry many southerners. [He would say], this is our chance of ruling, and we cannot rule without the support of these people, who he called rural Sudan."

Now, many southerners say they have given up on unity and look forward to freedom. As part of the peace agreement, there is to be a vote in six years to determine if the south will secede or remain united with northern Sudan.

One year after the signing of the agreement, an overwhelming number of southerners say they simply want their freedom. And in Darfur, another year has passed without much hope for peace.