Southern Sudan peace deal scares Darfur rebels

Oct. 25, 2003 (PANA)

Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) in the western region of Darfur fear government troops could wipe them out once Khartoum signs a definitive agreement to end the 20-year civil war in the south.

The government is "negotiating with the south because of pressure from the international community and military pressure in the south, in the west and in the east" of Sudan, SLM secretary general Mani Arkoi Minawi is quoted as saying by the London-based Arabic Alhayat daily Friday.

A peace accord with the southern Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) "will be a way for the government to regroup to suppress the other marginalized areas, including the west and our movement in particular," Minawi is quoted as saying.

Government-SPLA negotiations are under way in Kenya on a definitive peace agreement, which could be clinched before the end of December, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said during a visit to Kenya Wednesday.

"We want a comprehensive peace for all of Sudan -- north, east, west and south," Minawi said when asked for his impressions about the ongoing talks in Kenya.

"The government and the south do not represent all of Sudan. There are many neglected regions," he affirmed in a telephone interview from his base in Darfur.

Pressed on what his movement's position would be if Khartoum and the SPLA pressed ahead with a separate settlement, he said: "We will represent an obstacle to the achievement of such a peace.

"We do not believe that the government is working for a comprehensive settlement," said the leader of the latest rebel group to emerge in Sudan.

United Nations estimates indicate that 3,000 people have been killed since the conflict between the SLM and government troops broke out this year in Darfur, a semi-desert region bordering Chad. Another 400,000 people have been displaced.

The rebels claim they resorted to arms because the central government in Khartoum has neglected the economic needs of Darfur region, which hosts several indigenous minorities.