AFRICA/SUDAN - Peace talks for peace in Sudan resumed. “Refugees returning south could be convinced to vote for the government in a possible referendum on disputed border regions” local source told Fides

Monday, 17 May 2004

Khartoum (Fides Service)-“I am not sure whether talks between the government and rebels will bring authentic peace; I fear it will be more of a sharing of power and oil profits. However if it stops the fighting this will be a great result, especially for the people, completely exhausted after 20 years of civil war” a missionary with years of experience in Sudan told Fides commenting the resuming of peace talks between the Sudanese government and the main rebel group, the Southern Peoples Liberation Army SPLA.
This new round of talks must settle a number of questions, in particular the argument over who takes the disputed border regions of Nuba Mountains, Abiey and the southern part of Blue Nile state, Khartoum or a future temporary administration for the south.
“This is a key question because all three regions are rich in water and oil” the local source told Fides. “Already the prospect of peace has led thousands of refugees who previously fled to the capital Khartoum for safety, to return south. This is causing a flow of people moving south. Khartoum could take advantage of the fact to win a possible referendum on the future of the disputed regions. For years these refugees have been indoctrinated by the central government. In my opinion the return of refugees to the Nuba Mountains and the other two regions is part of an orchestrated plan by the government to obtain the administration of those territories” the missionary told Fides.
An agreement reached in 2003 stipulated that the government would withdraw its troops from southern Sudan and that the SPLA soldiers and regular troops would gradually be integrated to form a new national army. At the same time a political agreement sanctioned a transition period of six years with a temporary administration for southern Sudan, followed by a referendum for self-determination for the southern regions. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 17/5/2004, righe 31 parole 389)