The historic peace agreement to end a 17-year war in Sudan, particularly in Darfur where hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, was signed on Monday by Sudanese authorities and several rebel movements.
The agreements were done in two stages at a ceremony in Juba, southern Sudan: first, the rebel movements in Darfur, where the war that began in 2003 left at least 300,000 people dead and 2.5 million displaced in the first few years, according to the UN. And, then the rebel movement in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where the war has affected one million people.
Between the passage of each group of signatories, a singer accompanied by an orchestra sang traditional songs.
For the authorities, it was in khaki military uniform that Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, vice-president of the Sovereignty Council signed the agreement.
Very Symbolic Deal
Yesterday's enemies, Mr. Daglo and the leaders of the rebel movements, grouped within the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF), shook hands and even initiated a few dance steps.
The agreement was also done in the presence of the President of South Sudan Salva Kiir. who served as witness.
Other agreements for the development of the country were signed by political and tribal leaders from several regions.
Mr. Kiir took his seat at the podium, under a banner reading "Mediation Committee for Peace Talks", alongside General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane, who chairs the Sovereign Council at the head of Sudan, and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok.
To celebrate their first success since the fall of autocrat Omar al-Bashir in the spring of 2019, Sudanese leaders traveled in large numbers to Juba. Several foreign countries were also present.
"We know that we will face some problems when we start to proceed (to the implementation of this agreement) on the ground but we have this political will and our friends in the army have this political will to make it work," Fayçal Mohamed Saleh, Minister of Information and Culture, told AFP on the sidelines of the ceremony.
"It is a great success. We believe that we have thus begun the real transformation of Sudan from a dictatorship to a democracy (...) because we are now joined by armed movements of people from all regions of Sudan," he added.
The head of the mediators and advisor to the President of South Sudan on security matters, Tutkew Gatluak, said on Sunday: "The dream has come true after considerable efforts to reach a peace agreement between the government and the Sudanese Revolutionary Front".
The SRF is made up of four guerrilla movements that fought in Darfur in the west and in the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile in the south.
- One year of negotiations -
It took a year to reach this agreement, so deep was the mistrust and difficult the files.
"When the Juba Declaration was issued in September (2019), everyone expected the peace to be signed within two or three months, but (...) we realized that the issues were of a rare complexity," Hamdok said Sunday.
After the failure of several peace agreements, such as the 2006 one in Abuja, Nigeria, and the 2010 one in Qatar, yesterday's opponents understood that it was not just a security issue. They got to the bottom of the problems that have plagued the country since its independence in 1956.
The rebels and the government initialed eight protocols that make up the peace agreement: security, land ownership, transitional justice, reparations and compensation, nomadic and pastoral development, wealth sharing, power sharing and the return of refugees and displaced persons.
The agreement stipulates that the armed movements will eventually have to be dismantled and that their combatants will have to join the regular army, which will be reorganized to be representative of all components of the Sudanese people.
These peace negotiations were the priority of the new government in Khartoum.
"All the government's programs are based on peace and if peace is not achieved, none of the transitional government's programs will be realized," Saleh told the press Sunday.
Joy after the deal was signed
Leaders of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), an organisation of rebel groups from the western region of Darfur and the southern states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, raised their fists in celebration after inking the agreement.
Fighting in Darfur alone left around 300,000 people dead after rebels took up arms there in 2003, according to the United Nations, with former government leaders accused of carrying out genocide and of crimes against humanity.
Conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile erupted in 2011, in the wake of South Sudan's independence, resuming two decades of war.
Forging peace with rebels has been the cornerstone of Sudan's transitional government, which came to power in the months after the overthrow of Bashir in April 2019.