'Some Difficulties' Encountered At Peace Talks, Say Rebels

May 12, 2004 (IRIN)

Peace negotiations between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) were experiencing "some difficulties" on Tuesday, a rebel spokesman told IRIN.

The details of power-sharing in the two of the disputed areas - the Nuba mountains and southern Blue Nile - as well as at national level, had yet to be agreed on, said Yasir Arman, an SPLM/A spokesman.

In the disputed areas, the government had offered the SPLM/A forty percent of parliamentary seats and executive posts, and in the national government 28 percent, he said. Neither of these figures were acceptable: "The government is offering us 28 percent; we are asking for 38 percent, based on a population census of southern Sudan, the Nuba mountains and the southern Blue Nile."

IRIN was unable to obtain a comment from the Sudanese government.

Arman said Sudanese Vice-President Ali Uthman Muhammad Taha and SPLM/A Chairman Dr John Garang were continuing to hold talks in Naivasha, Kenya on Tuesday, while a separate committee was continuing to work on the power-sharing details. "We think these details should not have to keep the agreement hostage," said Arman. "If we cannot resolve the issues, we could ask for further arbitration."

On 7 May spokespersons on both sides said protocols on power-sharing, including in the three disputed areas of Abyei, southern Blue Nile and the Nuba mountains, and the legal status of the capital, Khartoum, could be signed within days. Both sides had agreed that Islamic shari'ah law would continue to apply in the capital, Khartoum, "with guarantees to non-Muslims that their religious rights will not be affected", a source told IRIN.

According to Samson Kwaje, another SPLM/A spokesman, once the protocols are signed, the parties will take a break "of two to three weeks" to allow for time "to bring together all the earlier agreements into a comprehensive peace agreement".

Six protocols and two annexes will make up a comprehensive peace agreement. These are the Machakos protocol governing a referendum on secession for the south after a six-year interim period, which was signed in July 2002; a protocol on security arrangements during the interim, signed in September 2003; and another on wealth-sharing concluded in December 2003.

Protocols on the status of Abyei, the three disputed areas and on power-sharing and two annexes governing the implementation of security arrangements and international guarantees on monitoring the ceasefire have yet to be signed.