Sudan signs peace pact with eastern rebel group

By Jeffrey Gettleman The New York Times

The Herald Tribune, 15 Octobre 2006

KHARTOUM, Sudan The Sudanese government has signed a peace deal with a small rebel movement in the eastern part of the country, an agreement intended to end fighting that lasted for 10 years, though never with the intensity of the conflict in Darfur.

According to state-run media, Mustafa Osman Ismail, a government negotiator, and Mussa Mohammed Ahmed, chief of the Eastern Front, signed the deal Saturday at the presidential palace in Asmara, Eritrea.

According to Agence France-Presse, Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al- Bashir, called the peace deal an example of "Africans solving an African problem without foreign help," a clear reference to his government's continuing refusal to allow UN peacekeepers into Darfur.

The rebels in eastern Sudan never posed the same kind of threat to the country's military dictatorship that Darfur's insurgents have, though they had been conducting hit-and-run guerrilla attacks on government forces for some of the same reasons. Eastern Sudan, like Darfur, is a poor, neglected area, where many people feel disenfranchised.

Under the new accord, the Eastern Front will get more representation in the national and regional administrations, including high-ranking posts in Khartoum, the capital.

The Darfur crisis, meanwhile, continues, with more fighting in El Fasher, one of Darfur's bigger towns, and reported clashes along Sudan's lawless border with Chad.

President George W. Bush's special envoy for Sudan, Andrew Natsios, arrived in Khartoum on Friday night to begin a meeting with top Sudanese officials. Few here expect Bashir to back down from his refusal to allow UN peacekeepers to patrol Darfur.

Darfur is patrolled by a force of peacekeepers from the African Union.