KHARTOUM, SUDAN - Some Sudanese citizens are welcoming the signing Monday in Juba of a peace deal mediated by South Sudanese leaders. Some say the agreement will allow them to move freely, engage in agriculture and carry out other developmental projects without fear.
Khartoum resident Khadija Iddris of the Arkaweet neighborhood calls the deal one of the signature achievements of the Sudanese revolution.
“Resources that have been spent on fighting each other should now be directed to development projects. Citizens will be able to exchange goods, carry out trading activities and be free to move between states,” Iddris told South Sudan in Focus.
The transitional government signed the historic deal with the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), a coalition of rebel groups from the regions of Darfur, Southern Kordofan, and the Blue Nile. The ceremony took place in Juba’s Freedom House.
The agreement came to fruition after nearly a year of talks hosted by South Sudan, raising hopes of ending more than 17 years of war. It offers power sharing, integration into security forces, land rights, and the return of those displaced from years of conflict.
Two rebel factions within the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) refused to take apart in the peace process.
Mohammed Attahir Ahmed, the paramount chief of the Jamilab community in Kassala, eastern Sudan told South Sudan in Focus the deal represents a victory over war and destruction.
“What we hope to see is a genuine implementation during the transitional period of three years,” Ahmed told VOA. “The parties to the agreement need to adhere and fully implement all articles of the agreement. We don’t want to go to the national elections when we still have fighting in some parts of the country."
People took up arms in Darfur, Blue Nile, Southern Kordofan and eastern Sudan because they felt marginalized under the rule of ousted President Omar al-Bashir. During that time, there was no fair distribution of resources and power, which was controlled by a few political elites, according to Ahmed.
Even though the government and armed groups agreed to stop fighting, Ahmed said the international community should demonstrate its commitment by funding the deal’s implementation.
“All these regions need serious development, and we are expecting the international community to consider supporting the implementation of this peace agreement. We would like to see the EU, World Bank, IGAD (the Intergovernmental Authority on Development), AU (the African Union), Arab countries and Americans, they should rally behind these efforts so we are able to achieve development,” Ahmed said.
For others, it is nothing more than a political agreement. Essam Imprator, a resident of Al Genena town of West Darfur told South Sudan in Focus any agreement that doesn’t include refugees and IDPs (internally displaced persons) will not usher in stability in Sudan.
“Our Sudanese communities need a social peace agreement in the grassroots. They need to sit and discuss their social issues that are affecting them through a dialogue. But what has been signed in Juba is a political agreement between the government and the armed groups. Refugees and IDPs in Darfur don’t feel that anything that touches them have been discussed during this agreement,” said Imprator.
Sudan’s transitional government spokesman Faisal Salih praised the deal.
He said that peace is the first priority out of the 10 issues the transitional government has determined to begin [addressing]. He said the transitional government is happy to accomplish this step — the Juba Declaration — but they are aware that still more rounds of talks will be needed with the SLM and SPLM-N to achieve a comprehensive peace.
The rebels fought troops sent by Bashir, who was ousted by the military in April 2019 after months of popular protest and replaced with a joint military-civilian government.
Bashir is serving jail time for corruption and is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
Sudan’s delegation to Monday’s signing ceremony included Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and the head of the transitional sovereign council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.
But the deal was signed by Sudan’s commander of fighters in the conflict, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemeti, who rights groups say committed many of the abuses in Darfur.
Hemeti and Burhan were also blamed for attacks against anti-Bashir protesters in Khartoum in June 2019 that left more than 120 people dead.
Protest leaders agreed to a power-sharing deal with the military whereby Sudan is to hold its first democratic election in decades in 2022.