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Government And Rebel Leader Mark Sudan Peace

Government And Rebel Leader Mark Sudan Peace In Security Council Chamber

The two principals in the decades-long Government-rebel conflict in southern Sudan, who less than three months ago vowed before an extraordinary United Nations Security Council meeting on their own doorstep in Kenya to make peace, came to the Council's home base in New York today, basking in the glow of their achievement.

A month after they fulfilled their pledge with ink Sudan's First Vice-President Ali Othman Taha and John Garang de Mabior, Chairman of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), attended a session at which the Council had before it a report from Secretary-General Kofi Annan requesting resources to support their accord.

Mr. Taha called on the international community to support efforts aimed at reconstruction and development, to lift any economic and trade restrictions or sanctions, to write off all foreign debt, to initiate partnerships with Sudan and to give generously at a forthcoming donors' conference in Oslo, Norway.

Mr. Garang noted the many challenges ahead, including the return of hundreds of thousands of refugees and millions of internally displaced persons (IDPs), some of whom are already moving to their home areas before necessary conditions were in place, thus putting additional strain on host communities. The SPLM needs assistance, he said.

Mr. Annan, who attended the session in view of its historic significance, did not speak, but in his report he emphasizes the substantial resources needed for relief and recovery and calls for the deployment of a multidimensional UN peace support operation that includes more than 10,000 troops and civilian police.

His Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, underlined the important momentum the peace accord in the south could give to efforts to solve Sudan's other major conflict in the west, in Darfur, where tens of thousands of people have been killed and nearly 2 million displaced in the past two years in what the UN has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The Council President for February, Ambassador Joel Adechi of Benin, called the 9 January peace accord a "historic moment" of great opportunity, which all the people of Sudan should seize, and said the 15-member body was already working on a resolution to establish a full-fledged UN peace support operation.

The Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission in the Sudan, Baba Gana Kingibe, stressed that the coming weeks would be critical for the smooth take-off of the new agreement and the manner in which its implementation unfolded would determine the future not only of Darfur and other areas in conflict within the Sudan but also to the future of the country as a whole.

In a related development, Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Wendy Chamberlin is set to leave on Saturday for a weeklong trip to southern Sudan, Uganda and Kenya, to look at the agency's initial efforts to lay the groundwork for an eventual return of some 500,000 refugees from neighbouring countries.

The extreme lack of infrastructure and basic services in southern Sudan after two decades of conflict means that major investment is needed to rehabilitate communities before such returns can begin. UNHCR has opened three offices in southern Sudan – in Rumbek, Juba and Yei – but without adequate funds the agency cannot fully begin projects to rehabilitate areas of potential return.

Some 223,000 refugees from southern Sudan are in Uganda, 60,000 in Kenya, 88,000 in Ethiopia, 69,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), an estimated 36,000 in the Central African Republic and 30,000 in Egypt. The conflict in the south has also displaced an estimated 4 million more people within Sudan.

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