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Darfur Rebel Group Signs Peace Deal

  • VOA News

The largest of the rebel factions in Sudan's Darfur region has signed a peace agreement with Khartoum.

Sudan's government and a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (S.L.A.) led by Minni Minnawi signed the peace plan in Nigeria's capital, Abuja on Friday.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said the document would be worthless if the parties do not move forward with the right spirit.

Two other rebel groups -- the Justice and Equality Movement and an S.L.A. faction led by Waheed Al-Nur -- have rejected the peace proposal.

In Washington , on friday, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed hope that all rebel factions would embrace the peace deal within the next few days.

Speaking separately in Washington, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres called on the international community to commit to the process of rebuilding Darfur.

A noted activist for the Darfur region who has been involved in past negotiations, Abdelbagi Jibril, told VOA he believes negotiators should have spent more time hashing out a deal on which all of the rebel factions can agree.

Friday's signing follows intense pressure from the international community to reach a peace deal to end three years of violent conflict.

Mediators say the three rebel groups need to approve any deal in order to make it work. They had been trying to negotiate new terms that give the rebels more political power and integrate them into Sudan's military, while disarming Arab militias in Darfur.

Conflict about land and water resources in Darfur erupted into fighting in 2003 when non-Arab rebels accused the Arab-dominated government of neglect. Fighting among the rebels, government forces and Khartoum-backed Janjaweed militias has killed at least 180-thousand people and displaced more than two million others.
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