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Sudan Peace Accord at Risk as SPLM Pulls Out of Unity Government


A Kenyan diplomat, who helped negotiate the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Sudanese government and southern rebels two years ago, is urging Khartoum to quickly implement key elements of the agreement to avert another crisis in the troubled country. As VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu reports from our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi, the fragile peace accord that ended Africa's longest-running civil war is under threat, after southern rebels suspended their participation in government on Tuesday.

The rebel group that signed the peace deal, Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), says it was forced to suspend their two-year-long participation in Sudan's national unity government, because of what they describe as Khartoum's failure to fully implement key elements of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in January, 2005.

On Friday, an SPLM member of the national unity government, William Ajal Deng, tried to allay growing fears that the North-South partnership is on the verge of collapse.

"No, things are not falling apart at all," he said. "We want things to be settled now. There is no going back to war."

The CPA, which ended Sudan's 21-year-long civil war between the North and South, outlined protocols for a number of issues, including power-sharing, wealth-sharing, and resolution of conflicts. But the agreement was considered fragile, largely because it was an agreement between only two parties - the Sudan People's Liberation Movement and the ruling party in Khartoum - and lacked broader support throughout the country, especially in the North.

Kenyan army Lieutenant General Lazarus Sumbeiywo spent nearly three years as special envoy and chief negotiator in the Sudan peace process. Sumbeiywo recently visited southern Sudan with former Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi and says both men noticed that the slow implementation of the CPA had created high levels of tension and anger in the South.

"We smelled that something was not right, that things were not being done," he said.

Sumbeiywo says he believes the Sudanese government, led by President Omar al-Bashir, must move faster to fulfill the promises it made in the peace accord and in the meantime, he says both sides must remain calm.

"Talk, talk, talk and talk some more," he added. "Unless someone quickly takes responsibility to bring everyone on-board again. I believe we could be sitting on a time bomb."

John Gachie, a political analyst and magazine editor in Juba, tells VOA that non-implementation of the CPA is also threatening international efforts end the four-year war between Khartoum and rebels in the western Darfur region of Sudan.

Like the rebels in the south, Darfur rebels took up arms against the government to protest decades of economic neglect and political marginalization by Khartoum.

"The CPA was a very detailed way to disengage and resolve outstanding issues," he said. "So, for the Darfur crisis, the fulfillment of the CPA would have provided a very good template. Now, the government in Sudan has repeatedly signed various accords, peace agreements with all sorts of people from Darfur to eastern Sudan. And the key elements of those peace agreements have never been honored."

In an interview with the Sudan Tribune newspaper Thursday, the leader of Darfur's rebel Sudan Liberation Movement, Abdelwahid al-Nur, said that the SPLM's decision to pull out of the national unity government showed that the ruling party in Khartoum cannot be trusted.