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Fighting Resumes in Sudan - 2002-07-30

Rebels and government forces in Sudan are reported to be fighting, just days after they signed a peace deal to end 19 years of civil war. A spokesman for the rebel sudan people's liberation army, SPLA, says the government used helicopter gunships in a battle near the town of Tam in the western Upper Nile region.

The spokesman says the fighting has resulted in heavy casualties. Eyewitnesses report many people fleeing to Bahr-el-Ghazal region – west of the Upper Nile region. The government has yet to comment on the reported fighting.

El-Sadeq Bekheet is a former press advisor to the president of Sudan – and currently a freelance journalist and political analyst. English to Africa reporter Ashenafi Abedje asked Mr. Bekheet if he’s surprised by the latest fighting so soon after the Kampala peace deal.

He says the Kampala meeting did not provide for a cease-fire. Mr. Bekheet says detailed negotiations will resume August 12th to help implement the Nairobi accords and achieve lasting peace in Sudan. He says once a peace agreement is signed, there will be a six-month interim period during which details of the agreement will be implemented.

The next six years, he says, will be used for reconstruction and confidence-building measures. Mr. Bekheet says that period, leading to a referendum for the south, will also be used to persuade southerners of the advantages of remaining in a united Sudan. He says the outcome of a future referendum is difficult to predict because there have been no surveys among southerners.

Mr. Bekheet thinks those engaged in fighting the Khartoum government may opt for separation. But he says there are many southerners who would feel safer in a bigger, united Sudan than in a south dominated by a fighting group.