Sudan unity under test

Sudan's first unity cabinet has six years to make a united country appear an attractive option to a largely pro-secession south.

    Al-Bashir termed the unity government a good omen

    The national unity government was announced late on Tuesday, ending a bitter bout of wrangling over the line-up between the president's ruling party and former southern rebels.
     
    "This government is a good omen and represents the will of the Sudanese people to establish peace and consolidate national unity," President Omar al-Bashir said.
      
    The establishment of the interim joint administration represents a landmark in shoring up the January peace deal that ended 21 years of civil war in Africa's largest country.
      
    The interim government will remain in place until legislative elections in about four years.

    Referendum

    A six-year post-war interim rule started in July, at the end of which the south will hold a referendum on self-determination.
      
    David Mozersky, an analyst with the International Crisis Group think-tank, said the formation of the government could speed up implementation of key features of the peace process.

    The threat of famine still looms
    in the south  

    "The worrisome thing that emerged however is that, more and more, each and every step along the way appears to be up for discussion and is re-opened for negotiation," he said, pointing out that the cabinet was formed almost two months late, and only after bitter wrangling.

    One of the main bones of contention was the distribution of key portfolios, such as energy and finance. Bashir's National Congress Party was finally handed both.
      
    The former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) obtained nine portfolios - including the Foreign Ministry - but the old northern government retains the bulk of the key jobs, a pattern that could fuel southern sentiment.

    Not sincere?

    The mainly black Christian southerners say they are still treated as "second class citizens" or "slaves" by the mainy Muslim north and suspect that Khartoum's current peace efforts are not sincere.

    Khartoum has also faced charges of attempting to sow division in southern ranks, as Bashir's regime is not expected to relinquish power easily.

    "This government is a good omen and represents the will of the Sudanese people to establish peace and consolidate national unity"

    Omar al-Bashir,
    Sudanese President

    The deal that ended the continent's longest-running civil war is seen as a potential example for other conflicts, and nearly 10,000 UN peacekeepers are being deployed in a bid to stabilise the area, which is half the size of western Europe.
      
    After two decades of war that left two million dead and twice as many displaced, the south lacks infrastructure and faces years of hard work to clear mines, repatriate refugees, build roads and develop a local economy.

    The threat of famine still looms in the south, while unrest continues in other parts of Sudan, such as Darfur in the west, and the Red Sea state in the east, further threatening the wider process of national reconciliation.

    SOURCE: AFP


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