Sudan’s government signs initial peace deal with rebel group

Ruling council inks preliminary deal on political and security arrangements with faction of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North.

Sudan’s transitional government and a rebel group have signed a preliminary peace deal, paving the way for eventual reconciliation through ongoing talks.

General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the deputy chief of Sudan’s Sovereign Council, inked the deal on Friday along with Malik Agar, head of one of the two factions of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), which has been fighting the government in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions.

“The government of Sudan is more willing than before to reach a peaceful settlement in Sudan,” Dagalo said at the signing ceremony that was held in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, and was overseen by South Sudanese President Salva Kiir.

The ruling council has made peace-making with rebels fighting Khartoum one of its main priorities as it is a key condition for the country’s removal from the United States’ sponsors of terrorism list.

The body took over the reins of government in August after military and civilian parties and protest groups signed a three-year power-sharing deal after months of strife following the overthrow of long-time President Omar al-Bashir in April.

The transitional government and rebel groups restarted peace talks last October to end Sudan’s long-running conflicts that have killed thousands of people. They have until February 14 to ink a comprehensive peace deal.

Terms of the deal

The agreement grants special status to the Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions, which are partly under the control of rebels.

Under the deal, the two regions will be allowed to draw up their own laws, said Yasir Said Arman, deputy head of SPLM-N led by Agar.

The agreement also seeks to resolve long-standing disputes on the sharing of resources such as land, as well as to unify all the various militias and government troops involved in Sudan’s multiple conflicts into a single military, according to Arman.

“After this signing we are going to finalise the full agreement and the SPLM-North will be part of the new system in Khartoum,” Arman said.

Although Friday’s preliminary deal was hailed by signatories as a step in the right direction, there was no comment from Abdelaziz al-Hilu, leader of the rival SPLM-N faction, the main fighting faction on the ground.

SPLM-N split into two factions in 2017.

Al-Hilu has called for a secular state with no role of religion in lawmaking, the disbandment of all of former al-Bashir’s militias and the revamping of the country’s military. If these demands were not met, al-Hilu said he would call for self-determination in areas under his control.

“Al-Hilu is demanding certain political changes that the interim government cannot really embark upon,” Rasha Awad, editor of the online Sudanese newspaper Altaghyeer, said.

The transitional government is under pressure to end wars with rebel groups as it seeks to rehabilitate the country’s battered economy, attract much-needed foreign aid and deliver the democracy it promises.

“With some groups still in talks and others yet to even start negotiating, Sudan’s road to peace remains long,” Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan said. “But Friday’s signing offers a glimmer of hope for those who’ve suffered from years of war.”