Sudan, in disarray since its independence from British colonization in 1956, has made a step towards what observers say is a move that has a chance to resolve many of the country’s deep-rooted civil conflicts.
Formerly Africa’s largest country, at least in terms of its geographic dimensions, Sudan’s borders were drawn up by the British last century. This process failed to consider the region’s ethnic divisions, forcing different ethnic groups under one leadership. The unwilling unification naturally worsened those ethnic tensions, especially between the Muslim-majority north and Christian-majority south. The following civil war only ended in 2005, with around 2,000,000 dead (mostly from the south) and millions more made homeless.
Meanwhile, in 2003, the western region of Darfur rebelled against the government in Khartoum. This destroyed hundreds of villages in the region, cutting hundreds of thousands of lives short and displacing millions more to refugee camps, both in the region and in bordering Chad.
These internal conflicts were fueled by the oppression and exclusion marginalized groups felt from the predominantly Muslim government. In Darfur, the conflict ignited when fighters revolted against an ethnic cleansing campaign promoted by both the government and the Arab militants.
Now, these minority groups have received crucial recognition and attention from the government they once rebelled against. The transitional Sudanese government and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), a coalition of several rebel groups, have signed a peace deal in Juba, South Sudan. The deal addressed political, national, and economic issues including the sharing of wealth and power, security arrangements, and land ownership. Other issues of justice, equality, and reconciliation were addressed, including the question of compensation to the regions devastated by the civil war. Alhadi Idris, head of the SRF, said that the agreement will enable refugees and the internally displaced to return to their homes.
International dignitaries, including the presidents of Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Chad; ministers from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates; and the prime minister of Egypt witnessed the historic event. Representatives from the African Union, United Nations, and European Union also watched Sudan and the SRF sign the agreement.
Both the government and rebel groups have many hurdles left to overcome. Armed groups and the military have a prominent role in the agreement, and there are questions about the deal’s inclusivity and comprehensiveness. But the civilian and military leaders have a common goal: ending conflict. Through this agreement, the two sides can bring peace to a country in crisis.
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