Sudan military to withdraw from south within 30 months

Jan 2 (AFP)

The Sudanese military is to complete the withdrawal of its forces from the south within 30 months of signing a peace deal ending a 21-year conflict with rebels, an independent daily reported Sunday.

Al-Rai Al-Aam said a protocol Khartoum signed with the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army on Friday in Kenya also calls on the SPLA to pull out its forces from areas of northern Sudan within eight months.

The withdrawals, which are set to take place under international monitoring, were laid out in a security protocol paving the way for the signing of a comprehensive peace deal on January 9 to end Africa's longest-running civil war.

A permanent ceasefire will come into force 72 hours after the signing of the final agreement, Al-Rai Al-Aam said, putting a halt to a conflict that has killed at least 1.5 million people and displaced four million more.

The Sudan war erupted in 1983 when the southern rebels rose up against Khartoum to end Arab and Muslim domination and marginalisation of the black, animist or Christian south.

Since July 2002, both sides have agreed on granting the south a vote on independence after six years of interim self-rule during which oil receipts will be shared on a 50-50 basis and special arrangements will be in force in three disputed areas.

Under the protocol, Sudan's army must reduce the size of its force in the south by 17 percent within six months in the first stage of a staggered withdrawal which should see all its forces out in 30 months.

The protocol also requires the SPLA to pull out its forces from the north of the country, beginning with a 30 percent withdrawal in four months and completion of the process within eight months.

These areas include the Nuba Mountains, southern Blue Nile and Abyei, ethnic minority areas which the SPLA captured parts of during the conflict but which Khartoum considers integral parts of the north.

The Sudanese government has undertaken to pay for joint patrols that are to be set up in the south, the disputed areas and Khartoum, and to consider funding the SPLA's own forces in the south in the longer term.

During the interim period, power will be concentrated in the hands of the ruling National Congress party of President Omar al-Beshir and the SPLA, with only a handful of positions given to other political forces.

Under the terms of the protocol on power-sharing, 52 percent of executive and legislative positions in the central government will be held by the National Congress, 28 percent by the SPLA, 14 percent by the northern opposition and six percent by breakaway southern factions.