After nearly 21 years, Africa's longest-running conflict has come to an end. The German government applauded the peace accord signed on Sunday but the crisis in Darfur is still cause for concern.
Sudanese have reason to celebrate after peace accord
In Nairobi, Kenya, on Sunday thousands of jubilant Sudanese, many of them refugees who live in the East African nation, witnessed the signing of a deal to end Africa’s longest-running conflict. Sudan’s vice president Ali Osman Taha and southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) leader John Garang signed the historic accord which marks an end to the war between the central, Islamist government in Khartoum and the mainly animist and Christian south.
The cornerstone of the agreement, one which Garang said had changed Sudan, is a six-year autonomy period for the south and an exemption from Sharia law. Also, the vast oil reserves, found primarily in the south, will be divided evenly between the two sides.
Sudan's Vice President Ali Osman Taha (left) and SPLA Chairman John Garang (right) exchange the peace agreement documents at Nyayo Stadium Nairobi, Kenya
Led by Garang, the SPLM/A rebelled in 1983 when the Muslim-dominated north wanted to impose Islamic law on the whole country. Since then, nearly two million people have died in the fighting and accompanying disease and famine.
Germany hailed the accord as a first step to Sudanese stability. "The signature of the peace accord is only a first step, albeit a big one. The international community must watch over and support the practical application of the accord," said senior foreign office official Kerstin Müller, who visited Sudan last year.
Darfur crisis still unresolved
Displaced Sudanese from Darfur are dependent on food aid from outside
Germany, like the rest of the international community, continues to be concerned with the continuing strife in the western Sudan region of Darfur. Since February 2003, Sudanese rebels have been battling with Sudanese troops and their militia allies. Over 70,000 people have died and at least 1.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes.
Müller warned that the humanitarian crisis in Darfur remained dramatic and required the world's political and humanitarian commitment. Germany, she added, would continue its aid program to the troubled area in 2005.
In Brussels, the European Commission called the agreement a "quantum leap" for the region. It hoped that the peace accord signed in Nairobi would have a positive impact on the Darfur conflict.