The agreement over the deployment and strength of government and rebel military personnel was signed Wednesday after some three weeks of negotiations between Vice President Ali Osman Taha and Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) leader John Garang.

“This is a historic occasion.... It has paved the way for a comprehensive peace agreement,” said Taha after exchanging the signed text of the agreement with Garang, AFP reported.

Under the agreement, which is linked to an already agreed six-year post-war interim period of self-rule for the south, most government troops stationed in the south will be withdrawn under international supervision.

"With this agreement, the direction and orientation for peace in Sudan is irreversible"

John Garang,
SPLA leader


  
“We will go into this agreement with resolve, energy and focus so that we resolve the remaining issues,” Garang said.

“With this agreement, the direction and orientation for peace in Sudan is irreversible,” he added.

Nuba agreement

Most SPLA forces deployed in the Nuba Mountains and the Southern Blue Nile region will be redeployed south of a north-south border cutting through the country which became independent in 1956.
  
Coordination between and command of the two armies will be assumed by a Joint Defence Board made up of officers from both sides.
  
Both groups of fighters will be “considered and treated equally as Sudan's National Armed Forces (SNAF)”, the agreement stated. 
  
The Sudanese civil war, which pitted the north against the  South, started in 1983 and has claimed more than 1.5 million lives. A further 4 million have been displaced. 

Combined military units
  
The agreement also stipulates the formation of new military units made up of forces from both sides of the conflict.

“The Joint/Integrated Units shall constitute a nucleus of a post-referendum army of Sudan, should the result of the referendum (held after the six-year interim period) confirm unity, otherwise they would be dissolved and the component parts integrated into their respective forces,” the text read, AFP reported.

Questions of power-sharing and of the status of three regions in the centre of the country, the most contentious issues, are still being discussed.


  
They will include 24,000 troops in the south, 6000 in Nuba Mountains, 6000 in Southern Blue Nile and 3000 in Khartoum.

The two sides also agreed to an internationally monitored ceasefire, which will come in to effect from the date of signature of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement, details of which have yet to be worked out.

Witnesses said delegates clapped as representatives from the government and the SPLA signed the deal near Lake Naivasha, some 90km from Kenya's capital Nairobi.

Questions of power-sharing and of the status of three regions in the centre of the country, the most contentious issues, are still being discussed.