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Celebrations Mark First Anniversary of Sudan Peace Agreement


Monday marked the one year anniversary of a peace agreement that ended 21 years of civil war between Sudan's northern Islamist government and southern rebels. The agreement granted increased independence to south Sudan in the form of an autonomous government. Southerners celebrated the anniversary of the peace agreement in the south Sudan capital city of Juba. But the celebration was tinged with suspicion and even anger.

Southern Sudanese turned out in large numbers in the capital city of Juba Monday to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Sudan's comprehensive peace agreement. Southern leaders and civilians were happy about a year without war, but many remain suspicious of their former northern foes.

One year after making peace with the northern government, it seems many people in the south are divided in their opinion of northern Sudan. Religious leaders urged unity, but some celebrants carried banners declaring "south Sudan for southerners only."

Southern leaders were guarded when asked if Sudan's leading Islamist National Congress Party was abiding by power sharing protocols.

A fight over south Sudan's oil still divides the nation. How to share the south's vast oil reserves has always been a thorny issue. The peace agreement stipulated that south Sudan would get half of the nation's oil revenue, but southerners say little money has actually been seen.

Presidential Legal Advisor Paul Mayom says there is still a strong current of mistrust regarding south Sudan's oil revenue.

"The money that southern Sudan should get from the oil is from both wells that produce oil from southern Sudan," he said. "And this to me seems to be a priority because an agreement is an agreement. And if you are not meeting the expectations of people who have fought for twenty one years it looks like you have only stopped gun sounds and have not caused the necessary stability. And stability means economic activity for the people to pursue their lives."

The celebration was also sobered by the absence of John Garang. Garang was the immensely popular leader of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement. Under the peace agreement he became the president of south Sudan. But Garang was killed in a helicopter crash in August, just three weeks later.

Garang's successor, Salva Kiir, was thrust into the presidency though he had little political experience. On Monday, Kiir cemented his reputation as a soldier rather than a politician.

Kiir's speech was devoid of sweeping oratory. Much of his address was dedicated to warning those who might undermine stability in the south or attempt to exploit the region's natural resources.

Like others, Kiir expressed enormous faith in Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

"The CPA is not just a peace accord or a quick fix for the so-called problem of the south, like the many discredited quick fixes that came and went without solving anything," he said. "The CPA is a milestone in the process of nation building and a design for a great purpose. However, nation-building cannot be achieved without great soul searching."

Sudan's two-decade civil war was fought between the Islamist northern government and rebels in the largely Christian and animist south. At stake were religious and social freedoms and natural resources including petroleum and land. As part of the peace agreement southern Sudanese will vote in six years on whether to remain united to northern Sudan or secede and form their own nation.