The world is hailing the peace deal in Sudan between the government and a southern rebel movement to end a war that has claimed two million lives. But observers say fighting is still going on in Sudan and much needs to be done to revive a country devastated by years of war. VOA's Michael Drudge attended the signing of the peace accord in Naivasha, Kenya.
There was much jubilation among the hundreds of Sudanese refugees who had come to witness the ceremony, where Sudanese government officials and the Sudan People's Liberation Army pledged to end their war.
The deal signed late Wednesday sets up a power-sharing transitional government and it settles three territorial disputes that had fueled the 21-year conflict, Africa's longest civil war.
Earlier accords set the terms for dividing Sudan's oil wealth and created joint military commissions. Mediators say a permanent cease-fire should be signed by mid-July.
The foreign minister of Kenya, Kalonzo Musyoka, said the momentum toward peace in Sudan cannot be stopped.
"I have every belief that this is a major thing," he said. "Just like when you are dealing with apartheid South Africa, matters go to a stage where they were irreversible. This whole thing, peace in Sudan, is truly irreversible, particularly after today's signature."
However, diplomats, relief agencies and military observers say much work remains before Sudan becomes truly peaceful, since several insurgencies are excluded from the new peace deal.
Most troubling for Sudan experts is the conflict in the western Darfur region, where black African rebel groups are fighting government-backed Arab militias. More than one million people have been displaced by the war.
A Sudan specialist at the humanitarian relief agency CARE International, Cynthia Gaigals, says the Sudanese government is under pressure to moderate its behavior toward non-Arabs.
"I think we are seeing movement," she noted. "The problem, as we see it, is if it does not get translated into absolute action immediately, we will still have a crisis."
Ms. Gaigals added that Khartoum continues to hamper food deliveries to Darfur, raising the specter of starvation.
"Access still is not as open as it should be," she said. "We are not getting the travel permits we need. There is not the amount of food pre-positioned that is needed. We have the possibility of 100,000 people in the Darfur region having a food crisis in the next few months."
Sudan has long been torn by religious and ethnic differences. The SPLA rebels of the south represent a predominately black African population that practices Christianity or animist religions, but the central government in Khartoum is controlled by Muslim Arabs.
The SPLA chief, John Garang, will be joining the new transitional government. He promises an end to political exclusion in Africa's biggest country. "These protocols, they pave the way for a comprehensive settlement that excludes none and opens the political space widely to accommodate everybody," he said.
Sudan's vice president, Ali Osman Taha, indicated that Khartoum is ready to work with the world to settle Sudan's conflicts.
He said that peace is at hand and Sudan seeks new relations with the world community based on cooperation, sincerity and truth.
Secretary of State Colin Powell responded to the signing with a statement saying the United States looks forward to a new relationship with Sudan. He said bilateral relations can begin to be normalized once the problems of Darfur are resolved.