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Sudan, Rebel Alliance Sign Peace Deal

Sudan’s transitional authorities and a rebel alliance on Saturday signed a peace deal agreed to in August that is to put an end to the country’s decadeslong civil wars.

“The next biggest challenge is to work with all local and international partners to preach the agreement and its benefits,” Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok tweeted on Friday upon his arrival in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. The pact was signed during a televised ceremony in Juba.

Reaching a negotiated settlement with rebels in Sudan’s far-flung provinces has been a crucial goal for the transitional government, which assumed power after a popular uprising led the military to overthrow President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.

Sudanese civilian leaders hope the deal will allow them to revive the country’s battered economy by slashing military spending, which takes up much of the national budget.

Saturday’s official signing in Juba sealed the peace deal reached in late August between the Sudanese government and the Sudan Revolutionary Front, a coalition of several armed groups.

The summit was attended by South Sudan President Salva Kiir, whose country gained independence from Sudan in 2011 following decades of civil war. The head of Sudan’s sovereign council, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, and his deputy, Gen. Mohammed Hamadan Dagalo, also attended the ceremony. Dagalo, commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, signed the agreement along with rebel leaders.

The deal would grant self-rule for the southern provinces of Blue Nile, South Kordofan and West Kordofan, according to a draft obtained by The Associated Press. Rebel forces would be integrated into Sudan’s armed forces.

The Sudan Revolutionary Front, centered in the western Darfur region that includes South Kordofan and Blue Nile, is part of the pro-democracy movement that led to the uprising against al-Bashir, but the rebels didn’t fully support the military-civilian power-sharing deal. That deal includes a six-month deadline for achieving peace, which ran out in February.

Sudan’s largest single rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Movement-North led by Abdel-Aziz al-Hilu, was involved in the talks but has yet to reach a deal with the government.

Al-Hilu has called for a secular state with no role for religion in lawmaking, the disbanding of al-Bashir’s militias and the revamping of the country’s military. The group has said if its demands are not met, it would call for self-determination in areas it controls in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan provinces.

Al-Hilu attended Saturday’s ceremony and met with Hamdok and Kiir to discuss the ongoing talks between his movement and the government, according to Hamdok’s office.

Another major rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Movement-Army, which is led by Abdel-Wahid Nour, rejects the transitional government and has not taken part in the talks.

Nour’s movement criticized the deal, saying in a statement it was “not different from” other previous deals that did not end the wars.

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