CAIRO: Sudan’s new transitional government met with rebel leaders on Monday, kicking off peace talks aimed at ending the country’s yearslong civil wars.
The peace initiative was built into a power-sharing deal between Sudan’s army and its pro-democracy movement, reached after the overthrow of longtime autocrat President Omar al-Bashir in April. The transitional authorities have six months to make peace with the rebels, according to the agreement.
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir is hosting the talks in its capital, Juba, where some rebel groups signed a draft agreement last month that detailed a roadmap for the talks, trust-building measures and an extension of a cease-fire already in place.
The government delegation, led by Gen. Mohammed Hamadan Dagalo, member of the Sudan’s sovereign council, arrived in Juba late Sunday. Rebel leaders arrived earlier this month.
Rebel leader Malik Agar of the Sudan Revolutionary Front, an alliance of Darfur rebel groups, told The Associated Press that they would start “the official opening” of the talks Monday in Juba.
Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the sovereign council, also arrived in Juba to attend the opening session, along with other African leaders including Egypt’s Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, according to the official SUNA news agency.
Ethiopia and the African Union mediated the power-sharing agreement in August which ended months of violence and faltering talks between Sudan’s generals and protesters following the uprising against al-Bashir.
Achieving peace is crucial to the transitional government in Sudan. It has counted on ending the wars with rebels for reviving the country’s battered economy through slashing the military spending which eats much of the national budget.
Sudanese authorities have introduced good-will signals. They dismissed the death sentences against eight rebel leaders and released more than a dozen war prisoners.
They also delayed the formation of the parliament and the appointment of provincial governors, to allow time for the rebels to come on board.
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