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Sudan Rebel Groups Seek Peace          10/13 10:15

   CAIRO (AP) -- Sudan's new, transitional authorities have six months to make 
peace with the country's rebels under a power-sharing deal reached this summer 
between the military and the pro-democracy movement following the ouster of 
longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April.

   If they fail to do so, it could undermine the deal and put the country's 
fragile transition in jeopardy.

   Talks with the rebels are to officially start Monday in neighboring South 
Sudan's capital. Sudanese government officials met informally with a rebel 
leader in Juba this week to prepare for the talks. This came after some rebel 
groups signed a draft agreement in Juba last month, detailing a roadmap for the 
talks, trust-building measures and an extension of a cease-fire already in 
place.

   Here is a look at what's at stake in Sudan and for the country's main rebel 
groups:

   HISTORY OF REBELLIONS

   Since its independence from British colonial rule in 1956, Sudan has been 
convulsed by long rebellions and fighting between the mostly Christian and 
animist south and the Muslim and Arabized north.

   The country's longest internal conflict, a civil war that spanned decades, 
led to South Sudan gaining independence from the north in 2011.

   However, in the 2000s, Sudan was most known for al-Bashir's brutal 
repression of an uprising in the western Darfur region, where pro-government 
militias known as the Janjaweed became notorious for their atrocities and 
al-Bashir himself was indicted by the International Criminal Court for war 
crimes and genocide.

   ___

   PEACE TALKS WITH THE REBELS

   Sudanese rebels have for years fought al-Bashir's loyalists, not just in 
Darfur but also in the southern provinces of Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

   The rebels did not sign on to the power-sharing deal with the military, 
reached in July, though they have observed a cease-fire since before 
al-Bashir's overthrow, in solidarity with the protest movement.

   Ahead of Monday's talks in Juba, Khartoum has been in a flurry of diplomacy, 
with Sudanese leaders visiting France, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab 
Emirates recently to enlist their support.

   ___

   THE SUDAN REVOLUTIONARY FRONT

   The Sudan Revolutionary Front was established in November 2011 following 
fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile provinces that broke out after South 
Sudan's secession from Sudan.

   It's an alliance of rebel groups in the region, including the Justice and 
Equality Movement, the Sudan Liberation Army-Mini Minawi, named after its 
leader, and a faction of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North, led by 
Malik Agar.

   The Sudan Revolutionary Front joined the protest movement against al-Bashir 
but did not fully support the power-sharing deal with the military. It did, 
however, engage in talks with protest leaders and the generals before and after 
the August signing of the power-sharing deal.

   SRF leader Yesir Arman has called for a role in the transitional government 
, and wants its fighters to be included in the country's military, something 
the Sudanese generals are unlikely to accept.

   ___

   SUDAN LIBERATION MOVEMENT-NORTH ABDEL-AZIZ AL-HILU

   The Sudan Liberation Movement-North split in 2017 into two factions, one led 
by Abdel-Aziz al-Hilu and the other by Agar, which later joined the Sudan 
Revolutionary Front.

   Al-Hilu's movement is Sudan's largest single rebel group and is active in 
the Blue Nile and South Kordofan provinces, where it controls significant 
chunks of territory.

   Since al-Bashir's ouster, al-Hilu has refused to hold talks with either the 
military council or the pro-democracy movement, saying vaguely he would only 
engage with a transitional government "backed by the Sudanese people."

   Al-Hilu has called for a secular state with no role of religion in 
lawmaking, the disbanding of all al-Bashir's militias and the re-vamping of the 
country's military.

   The group has said if its demands aren't met, it would call for 
self-determination in areas it controls.

   ___

   SUDAN LIBERATION MOVEMENT/ARMY

   This group is led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur and it also rejected the 
transitional government, staying out of preparatory talks in September between 
Khartoum representatives and the rebels in Juba.

   Al-Nur has called for the government to first clean up house, including 
disbanding al-Bashir's militias and his National Congress Party. He also wants 
al-Bashir to be handed over to the International Criminal Court.

   Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok met with al-Nur in Paris last week in 
efforts to have him join the upcoming talks but al-Nur again rejected the 
proposal.

   ___

   CHALLENGES AHEAD

   The initial agreement reached in September in Juba between Khartoum and the 
rebels, dubbed the Declaration of Principles, envisaged trust-building measures 
by the government, such as the release of war prisoners and dismissing 
sentences and charges against rebel leaders.

   Since then, the authorities have dismissed the death sentences against eight 
leaders of al-Nur's group and released more than a dozen prisoners from Agar's 
faction. They also delayed the formation of the parliament and the appointment 
of provincial governors, to allow time for the rebels to come on board.

   Suliman Baldo, a senior researcher with the Washington-based Enough Project, 
a non-profit organization, said it will be tough to find a common political 
ground, given that there are Islamic-leaning rebels like the Justice and 
Equality Movement, and others who seek a secular government, like al-Hilu's 
movement.

   Also, finding a way to get al-Nur's movement to the negotiating table will 
be critical, Baldo said.


(KR)

 
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