Khartoum (Fides Service)- There are growing hopes that peace in Sudan may be in sight at last. US Secretary of State Colin Powell has said he is convinced that peace in Sudan will be signed before the end of the year, “at the end of December at the latest”. Mr Powell was in Naivasha (Kenya) to follow peace talks between government delegation led by vice president Ali Osmane Taha, and a SPLA/M delegation, Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army, led by John Garang.
In September the sides reached an agreement stipulating the withdrawal of government troops from Southern Sudan and progressive fusion of SPLA/M with the regular troops in a new united army and a political agreement for a 6 year transition period followed by a referendum for self-determination in Southern Sudan.
However certain points still need to be settled. For example the destiny of contested areas, the Nuba Mountains, Abiey the southern part of Blue Nile State: it is still uncertain whether they will be under the control of SPLA/M or the government; distribution of oil profits (half a million drums per day as from 2004) and the organisation of power. SPLA/M recently proposed alternate presidency government/SPLA for three years of the transition period. Another unsettled question is Sharia Muslim law. SPLA/M wants its enforcement lifted even in the capital, where however part of the population wants it to be applied. Civil war in Sudan began in 1983, precisely because of the introduction of Sharia law people in Christian/Animist southern Sudan revolted against the government. War has caused the death of more than 2 million, immense damage and millions of internally displaced persons. (L.M.) (Fides Service 27/10/2003 lines 28 words 353)