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Celebration Reveals Tensions, Cracks in Sudan's North-South Peace Deal


Sudan is commemorating the two-year anniversary of the signing of a peace deal that put an end to 21 years of war between north and south. But a celebration to mark the anniversary in the southern capital, Juba, exposed still-simmering tensions and resentment. Cathy Majtenyi attended the anniversary celebration in Juba and files this report for VOA.

At various points throughout the ceremony, which included speeches from Uganda's vice president and Kenya's foreign minister, spectators who crowded into the bleachers of Juba's football stadium waved Sudanese flags, cheered, and chanted.

Many southerners wore traditional headdresses, while northerners sported their long-flowing robes.

During the excitement of the day, north-south tensions began to surface. This was evident in the speeches delivered by Sudan's top leaders.

Sudanese Vice President and President of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir, summarized the widely-felt southern disillusionment toward the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

"It was designed to ensure an equitable and transparent distribution of wealth and resources," he said. "It was intended to create a level ground for all Sudanese political forces so that they compete freely. Above all, it has ensured for you, the people of Southern Sudan, the right of self-determination while urging us to create an environment for making the unity of our country an attractive option. As leaders, have we achieved any of these goals? The answer is regrettably no."

In 1983, the southern rebel group Sudan Peoples' Liberation Army rose up to fight what it said was political, economic, social, and cultural repression of the mainly Christian and animist south by the predominantly Muslim and Arab north.

The fighting centered on oil-rich areas in the south where local populations had been forcibly removed. Africa's longest civil war claimed more than 1.5 million people and displaced millions more.

After years of negotiations in which Kenya played a leading role, the north and south signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement on January 9, 2005. The agreement spells out how the north and south are to share wealth and power, manage their armies jointly and separately, and the balance between state and religion.

The south was given six years of semi-autonomy, after which southerners could vote on whether or not to cede from Sudan or stay as one country.

But each side is blaming the other for not following through on the promises made.

At Tuesday's event, President of Southern Sudan Kiir accused the northern government of being behind recent volatility in the south and therefore not being serious about pursuing peace.

"The continuous military support from the Sudanese Armed Forces to the various armed groups in Southern Sudan, including the Uganda rebels, the Lord's Resistance Army, is still alarming," he said. "The Sudanese Armed Forces support to the militia in southern Sudan resulted in the recent military confrontation in Malakal, where more than 130 people were killed. This was uncalled for and should have been stopped by our partners before it could reach that stage."

Kiir said the national defense minister promised that by the end of 2006 all northern militias operating in southern Sudan would be disbanded and disarmed, which according to Kiir has not happened.

In addition to insecurity, Kiir says that the south is not getting its share of oil revenues. He says this is largely because oil-producing areas that should belong to the south have wrongly been annexed to the north, and the south does not receive revenues of oil produced in the north.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said it is the Sudan People's Liberation Movement that is dragging its feet on the agreement's implementation.

Al-Bashir says his government waited for six months for the southern administration to come to the capital Khartoum to set up the agreed-upon commissions and structures. He says the Sudanese government gave the southern administration $60 million to bring everyone up to Khartoum, but the officials failed to come.

Al-Bashir says his government has disbanded 30,000 of the 40,000 armed militiamen in the south, and has called for the rest to the north or else be dismissed.

Juba resident Santa Amansio attended the celebrations with his friends. He shares with VOA his frustrations that the north-south agreement has not bought the expected peace to Juba and other parts of south Sudan.

"The life in southern Sudan is not going smoothly, because some people are dying on the road," he said. "But I think it is lack of security. And if our government can determine that for all Sudanese to be free, I would be glad. But now I cannot manage, because people are dying while there is peace."

Kenya's Minister of Foreign Affairs Raphael Tuju told the gathering that Kenya intends to host a meeting of regional leaders soon to review what is happening with the agreement and its implementation.

Tuju urged all sides to rise above their differences to build a united Sudan.

"Let your pride be manifest in positive things and not in negative tribalism. No civilization has ever emerged simply on pride," he said.

Tuju says that a broken agreement would be a disaster for Sudan and the region, and said that ethnic pride had no place in a post-war Sudan.