Plea to include disputed regions in peace talks

April 8, 2003 (IRIN)

Mediators in the ongoing peace talks between the Sudanese government and rebels have been urged to include three disputed regions if any lasting solution to the country's long-running conflict is to be reached.

The contested areas of Abyei, Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile do not fall within the geographical definition of southern Sudan, but the indigenous people have historically been identified with the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A).

In an analytical paper, two independent Sudan researchers - Justin Corbett and Paul Murphy - said the ongoing peace process must focus on these areas where the indigenous population
have "similar legitimate grievances", which are grounded in "clear historic realities".

"All evidence suggests that the people will continue to resist and fight unless their demand for the right to decide on their future is accommodated within the wider IGAD [regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development] framework for peace," the report said.

"Given the intensity of resistance to date, there is every reason to predict that this will destabilise any wider peace agreements in the country."

"Treated effectively as 'second-class' citizens by the northern ruling classes, they have experienced systematic marginalisation and discrimination (socio-cultural, religious, political, economic) and a denial of their basic rights of self-expression and freedom of identity," it added.

The paper noted that the three regions were strategically placed, so that local conflicts would effectively destabilise wider areas, including recognised routes for displaced southerners returning from the north.