Sudan to let ex-rebels join army when south secedes

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 28, 2011 2:33 PM
Sudan to let ex-rebels join army when south secedes

By Aaron Maasho

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Khartoum agreed with southern Sudan's dominant party on Wednesday to integrate former rebels in northern territory into the national army when the south secedes, and laid out plans to start ceasefire talks.

South Sudan will declare independence on July 9 after voting in a January referendum to secede. But important issues such as where to draw the border have yet to be hammered out, made more difficult by Sudan's complex ethnic makeup and history of war.

The sides have been holding talks in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, mediated by South African former President Thabo Mbeki.

Thousands of fighters who sided with the south during a 1983-2005 civil war will be left in northern territory, notably in the north's Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile border states.

Fighting broke out between the northern military and fighters associated with the south's dominant political force, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), in Southern Kordofan on June 5, stoking tensions ahead of the split.

Members of the north's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the northern branch of the SPLM would "engage each other" on Thursday morning on the cessation of hostilities in Southern Kordofan, Mbeki said.

The sides had signed an agreement that "provides for a political partnership, as well steps to be taken for security arrangements in South Kordofan", Mbeki told reporters.

"The Republic of Sudan will have one national army," the agreement, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, said.

"The SPLA forces from Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile shall be integrated, over a time period and with modalities to be agreed, into the Sudan Armed Forces, other security institutions and civil service," it said, referring to the SPLM's military wing, the Sudan People's Liberation Army.

The groups also agreed the SPLM North should be allowed to continue as a legal political party.

"This puts us on the way forward toward the ending of the conflict in South Kordofan, as well as establishing a relationship that will ensure that there will be peace and security for the population," Mbeki said.

Some analysts are sceptical a deal reached in Addis Ababa will have sway over fighters in Southern Kordofan -- many from the ethnic Nuba population, who felt left out of the 2005 peace deal, which ended the civil war and paved the way for the south to gain independence but left their territory part of the north.

Both U.S. President Barack Obama and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have called for a ceasefire in the state, which has oil deposits. Humanitarian groups fear a rising death toll.

Some 2 million people died in decades of north-south conflict in Sudan, fought over ideology, ethnicity, religion and oil.

(Writing by Alex Dziadosk in Khartoum; Editing by Peter Graff)