AFRICA/SUDAN - Prospects for peace in Sudan extend also to northern Uganda

Friday, 16 April 2004

Khartoum (Fides Service)- Sudan appears to have taken the right path to end the civil war which since 1983 has caused the death of more than 1.5 million people mostly civilians. The leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), John Garang, recently made some conciliatory remarks. In an interview with the Egyptian daily Al Ahram, Garang said that his Movement and the government of Khartoum had decided to focus peace talks on six unsolved matters: application in the capital of Islamic law (Sharia); region of Abyei; southern Nuba Mountains; power sharing between government, SPLA and other forces; security forces and presidency. “We reached an agreement for most of the questions” Garang said, although some divergence remains particularly with regard to the application of Sharia law in the capital. He said the problem would be settled by the new parliament and that he was confident that “Sharia law will not be applicable to non Muslims either in the south, north, or in Khartoum”.
Progress has been made at the regional level. After a lapse of 14 years, the joint Sudan-Uganda commission met in Kampala (Uganda) to discuss how to improve bi-lateral relations. Sudan and Uganda have fought indirectly for years, supporting the respective guerrilla groups. Uganda gave support to the SPLA, while Sudan offered a haven and arms to the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) which for years has harassed civilians in northern Uganda. In 1995, tension between the two countries reached the point of breaking diplomatic relations, re-established in 2001. The need for Uganda and Sudan to improve relations has been voiced repeatedly by religious leaders in northern Uganda, who see this as an essential condition for restoring peace in Uganda . (see Fides 12 November 2003). (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 16/4/2004 righe 25 parole 321)