CAIRO - Leaders of Sudan's transitional government and a number of rebel groups signed a peace agreement Saturday in the South Sudanese capital of Juba, which observers hope will end nearly two decades of conflict in war-torn regions of the country, including Darfur.
Sudan's interim President Abdel Fattah al-Burhan captured the joyful mood surrounding the peace accord Saturday, chanting, "Sudan is our country and we are all brothers," to the large crowd gathered in Juba. He described the event with optimism.
Burhan said it was a great day for the destiny of Sudan’s people, since the nation achieved the goal of a revolution — which is peace — after many years of war, ending bloodshed and giving the people a decent standard of living.
Sudan's interim Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok thanked all factions and leaders that joined the peace accord, ending his country's bloody 17-year conflict, and he urged the two remaining factions, which have not signed the peace deal, to come on board.
He said there could be no development without peace, and no peace without fair and equitable development, all of which contribute to democracy. He added that the country was waiting for the two rebel leaders who have not signed the accord — Abdel Aziz Helou and Abdel Wahad Nour — to join it.
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, who oversaw months of difficult negotiations that led up to the August accord, told the crowd that he was "delighted by the agreement" and "proud of the accomplishment," since South Sudan, itself, is still recovering from a long conflict.
Kiir also thanked the international community for its "support and encouragement" in brokering the deal, insisting that "our work is not done, and we will not relax until our aspirations for a peaceful region are achieved." He warned the outside world that Sudan "needs its help and aid."
The leader of one of the factions that signed the joint peace deal, Arko Minawi, stressed that it was a step in the right direction.
He said sharing power during the interim period in Sudan would l guarantee the rights of all and lead to a secure and lasting democracy.
The Sudanese peace accord includes eight protocols and will restructure the country into eight regions, replacing the country's current 18 provinces. The deal also includes a wealth-sharing provision and reparations for those hurt by the long conflict, and it promises the return of refugees displaced by fighting.