Khartoum, SPLA agree on status of two disputed regions

NAIROBI
23 January 2004 (Middle East Online)

Both sides reach agreement on Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile, but nothing has been signed.

Sudan's government and the main rebel group have reached an agreement on the status of two of three disputed regions in the centre of Africa's largest state, the chief mediator in peace talks in Kenya said on Friday.

The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) has been claiming Nuba Mountains, the Southern Blue Nile and Abyei although they are not geographically part of the south, where the rebel movement is based.

"Both sides have reached an agreement on Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile, but they have not signed anything because they are still discussing Abyei," chief mediator Lazaro Sumbeiywo, a retired Kenyan general, told AFP by telephone from the talk's venue in Naivasha.

A spokesman for the SPLA, Yasser Arman, said that it had been agreed that the two areas would enjoy "self-rule, autonomy and popular consultation".

Khartoum and the rebels have already signed an agreement on a 50-50 split of the country's wealth, particularly oil revenues.

In 2002, Khartoum and the SPLA struck a breakthrough accord granting the south the right to self-determination after a six-year transition period, and last September both sides reached a deal on transitional security, under which the government would withdraw its troops from the south.

The war in Sudan, which erupted in 1983, is the longest on the African continent. It has pitted the south, where most observe traditional African religions and Christianity, against the Muslim, Arabized north.

The conflict has claimed at least 1.5 million lives and displaced an estimated four million people.