Sudanese Opposition Opens Meeting Called ‘Last Chance’ for Peace
Sudanese opposition leaders opened a meeting in Cairo on Tuesday in what a spokesman described as a "last-chance" bid to coordinate African and Arab initiatives to end an 18-year civil war in Sudan, reported AFP.
Leaders of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), an umbrella organization for the southern rebels and northern opposition groups, gathered in the Egyptian capital to focus on the east African IGAD initiative and a joint proposal by Egypt and Libya.
"This is the last chance to reach a concrete proposal for coordinating the two initiatives," because of new developments in the civil war and time lost since an Arab proposal was floated two years ago, NDA spokesman Hatem Al Sir Ali told AFP.
The southern rebels in the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), the most powerful group within the NDA, have dramatically strengthened their position near the government oil-producing regions in south-central Unity State, said the agency.
SPLA leader John Garang, whose forces have fought Sudan's Arab Muslim north since 1983, advocates a confederate state with two separate constitutions, so that animists and Christians will not be subject to Islamic law.
Khartoum insists on pushing for Islamic law throughout Sudan, and has rejected SPLA demands that it stop pumping oil as a condition for a ceasefire. The rebels say the government is using oil revenues to wage the war.
In August 1999, Egypt and Libya launched a joint peace initiative for Sudan, which calls for reconciliation among all Sudanese factions.
It follows one launched in 1993 by the Kenyan-based, east African Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which seeks to reconcile the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army.
Garang has said the pre-existing IGAD peace drive will take precedence for the SPLA, unless the two initiatives are merged.
Garang was not present for the three-day conference of the NDA leadership council in Cairo, with some Sudanese participants saying his absence undermined the chances of its success.
However, SPLM/A officials said their group was well represented at the meeting.
Last Wednesday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met two Sudanese rebel leaders who gave him their perspective on the latest developments in the war-torn Arab African country.
Mubarak received Mohammed Osman Al Mirghani, chairman of the NDA, and Garang.
Press reports did not elaborate on the content of the meeting, but a spokesman for Garang, Yasser Arman, had said earlier that the meeting would confirm "the strong ties between the Sudanese opposition and the leadership and people of Egypt."
Arman said the joint visit by the two opposition leaders "gives a strong hope to the Sudanese people that the unity of Sudan on a new basis of equality is possible, regardless of race, religion, sex, gender or region." – Albawaba.com
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