Sudan's vice president and the country's main rebel leader signed a comprehensive peace agreement to end Africa's longest-running conflict Sunday, concluding an eight-year process to stop a civil war in the south that has cost over 2 million lives since 1983.
The signing ceremony in neighboring Kenya - where the talks were based - was attended by US Secretary of State Colin Powell and other senior foreign diplomats.
The signatures by Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Mohammed Taha and John Garang, chairman of the Sudan People's Liberation Army, represented a breakthrough in efforts to end the north-south war that has pitted Sudan's Islamic-dominated government against rebels seeking greater autonomy and a greater share of the country's wealth for the largely animist south.
The deal also has raised hopes for a solution to the separate conflict in Sudan's western region of Darfur, where tens of thousands of villagers have died since non-Arab rebels rose up in February 2003 against Sudan's Arab-dominated government and pro-government Arab tribal militia, known as Janjaweed.
Powell, Italy's Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini signed the agreement as witnesses, representing donors who've backed the peace negotiations. Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni also signed as witnesses.
Nine other African leaders attended the ceremony, including Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, chairman of the African Union, and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa.
© 2005 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )