Sudan peace deal may be signed in a few days: Kenyan FM

Mar 3, 2004 (Xinhua)

A comprehensive peace agreement between the Sudanese government and southern rebels may be signed in the next few days, Kenyan Minister for Foreign Affairs Kalonzo Musyoka disclosed here Wednesday.

Musyoka said Ali Osman Mohamed Taha, the Sudanese First Vice President, and John Garang, the Sudan People's Liberation Army ( SPLA) leader, have expressed commitment to signing an agreement before March 16.

"We hope in the next few days the two will be able to sign a peace agreement. For now we can only pray for them and hope that a breakthrough will be reached in the next few days," Musyoka told a regional workshop which was organized by African Peace Forum, a nongovernmental organization.

The minister, however, said the negotiations have reached a critical stage and hoped that soon, a solution for Abyei, one of the disputed areas, will be found.

"I expect they will agree on the two outstanding issues even before the end of this current session of the talks on March 16. For now the deliberations are at a delicate stage and we do not want to open up," he said.

The Sudanese civil war started as the SPLA took up arms fighting for self-determination in the southern part of the country in 1983.

The conflict has left some two million people dead, mostly through war-induced famine and disease.

The Sudanese government and the SPLA began a new round of peace talks in July 2002 in Kenya, aimed at ending the longest civil war on the continent, under the auspices of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a seven-member regional group in east Africa, consisting of Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, Eritrea, Somalia and the Sudan.

Kenya is holding the current chairmanship of the IGAD ministerial sub-committee on the Sudan.