Sudan: New gov't must show peace dividend - mediator

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

NAIROBI, 11 July (IRIN) - The new Sudanese government of national unity, sworn into office on Saturday, must reach out to former adversaries and show its people tangible peace dividends, the chief mediator in Sudan's peace process has said.

"The main task of the government of national unity is not about words and documents now, it is about the hearts and minds of the Sudanese people," Lt Gen (rtd) Lazaro Sumbeiywo, said on Monday.

"Politically, the new government has to be inclusive and offer the olive branch to former adversaries," Sumbeiywo, who was named mediator by the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), told IRIN in an interview.

IGAD sponsored lengthy talks between the government in Khartoum and the southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). The two parties signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) on 9 January in Nairobi, Kenya, paving the way for the new government of national unity.

The chairman of the SPLM/A, John Garang, was sworn in as First Vice President, while Umar al-Bashir retained the presidency of Africa's largest country.

"In the north," Sumbeiywo added, "that means getting the National Democratic Alliance [NDA, the main coalition of northern opposition parties] fully on board, and stopping conflict in Darfur and in the east with the Beja rebels. In the south, a solution has to be found for the South Sudan Defence Force [SSDF, a government-aligned southern militia group]."

He stressed: "The government has to show the people that there is a tangible peace dividend. They must see war stop, and that schools and roads are being built - things that have not been done for the past 50 years.

"In terms of demobilisation and disarmament, a lot of ground-work has been done already. Many people will be happy to hand in their arms, but the new government must give them something to do in their community," he added.

Separately, the Darfur programme coordinator for the Justice Africa advocacy organisation, Hafiz Mohamed, said he felt the Sudanese peace process was moving in the right direction.

He warned, however, that several key players had not been involved in the negotiations that led to the CPA.

"They [the government of national unity] have to focus on the conflicts in Darfur and the east that are still going on," he urged. "The most important is the political will to do something about it and we hope the new government of Garang himself will take on this problem and convince the other parties."

"If you want the CPA to be comprehensive, you have to make sure other groups feel they are part of the process," he added. "You have to include them to overcome the difficulties and achieve progress in the implementation of the peace agreement - many groups feel alienated right now."

The Popular Congress, the Ummah party and the Communist Party recently formed an alliance with a number of smaller parties to form an opposition to the government of national unity.

"They will be part of the process and will challenge the present government. They will have a role to play, even when they are not part of the government," Mohamed said.

The NDA, which recently signed the Cairo agreement with the Sudanese government and endorsed the CPA, is also not yet part of the unified government.

"The issues that have not been resolved yet are the future of the NDA armed groups and the size of NDA representation in the new government. As their share will be very small, it is not clear whether they will accept it," Mohamed said.

"The government urgently has to address the social and economic issues as well," he said. "Seventy percent of the Sudanese people live below the poverty line."

During Saturday's ceremony, the leaders of the National Congress Party and the SPLM/A signed the new interim constitution.

"Today, 9 July 2005, is Sudan's day," Garang said.

The CPA provides for a government based on a transitional constitution and a six-year interim period. Following this interim period, a referendum would decide whether the south was to remain part of the country or become independent.

"I welcome brother Garang and his movement and you will find full cooperation from our side," al-Bashir said as he was sworn in as President.

The outgoing First Vice President, Ali Uthman Muhammad Taha, was appointed Second Vice President of the Republic of Sudan.

The Secretary-General of the UN, Kofi Annan, the Arab League chief, Amr Mussa, the Deputy US Secretary of State, Robert Zoellick, and heads of state from the Central African Republic, Djibouti, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda were among the dignitaries who attended the inauguration.

Annan said the UN was concerned about the situation in Darfur in the west, and in the states of Kassala and Red Sea in eastern Sudan.

"The peace process between north and south must be made irreversible, which it will not be unless it takes root in the east and in the west as well," he said.

On Sunday, al-Bashir issued a decree ending the country's 16-year-old state of emergency - which gave authorities wide powers to detain people without charge and to crack down on opposition forces - in all the states of Sudan except the three strife-torn states of Darfur and two eastern states bordering Eritrea.


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