Sudan peace deal: more than 20 presidents expected to the signing

Jan 3 (AFP)

More than 20 presidents and heads of government are expected to attend the signing of a final agreement to end 21 years in southern Sudan, next Sunday in Nairobi, Kenyan officials and mediators said on Monday.

"We are expecting very many presidents to attend," Kenyan Regional Cooperation Minister John Koech, who is organising the peace signing ceremony, told AFP in Nairobi.

The Khartoum government and southern rebels of Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) overcame the last sticking points at marathon talks in Kenyan town of Naivasha on Friday, to end Africa's longest-running conflict.

The signing of a comprehensive peace agreement is now scheduled to take place on January 9 in the Kenyan capital, in the presence of several world leaders, UN officials and diplomats, who have all pushed for the resolution of the conflict.

An official in the mediation team told AFP that presidents from the regional body InterGovernmental Authority of Development (IGAD, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda), which was tasked with mediating the marathon peace talks, will attend.

Leaders from neighbouring African countries will also be there.

Others expected leaders of Africa's powerful nations are Muamar Kadhafi of Libya, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria.

"They will be over 20 leaders," the official added.

"SPLM/A will of course invite its own people, same as the government of Sudan," said the official in IGAD.

The signature will definitively end war in southern Sudan, which erupted in September 1983 when the rebels rose up against Khartoum's Arab and Muslim domination of the black, animist and Christian south.

The war and its effects have killed at least 1.5 million people and displaced four million others.

The peace deal however does not cover the conflict in the western Sudanese province of Darfur, where tens of thousands of people and around 1.6 million others displaced by 22 months of clashes opposing rebels to government troops and proxy militia.