Sudan and major rebel groups to formalise peace deal

JUBA, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Sudan’s power-sharing government and several rebel groups are due to formalise a peace agreement on Saturday aimed at resolving decades of regional conflicts which left millions displaced and hundreds of thousands dead.

Three major groups signed a preliminary deal in August - two factions from the western region of Darfur and one from the southern region - after months of peace talks hosted by neighbouring South Sudan.

Another powerful rebel group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu, which had not participated in initial peace negotiations, agreed last month to hold new talks hosted by South Sudan.

Tut Gatluak, the South Sudanese chief mediator, told Reuters ahead of Saturday’s ceremony in Juba that the goal is to sign deals with all armed groups.

“The parties will sign their final agreement ... and from there, we shall continue engaging with the other holdout groups of general Al-Hilu and Al-Noor,” he told Reuters on Friday.

Leaders from Kenya, Ethiopia, Chad, Egypt as well as the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia will also attend the event, he added.

Sudan has been wracked by simmering conflicts for decades. After the oil-rich south seceded in 2011, an economic crisis fuelled protests that led to the overthrow of veteran president Omar Hassan al-Bashir in 2019.

Sudan’s new civilian and military leaders, who have shared power since then, say ending conflicts is a top priority to help bring democracy and peace to a country in crisis.

The deal sets out terms to integrate rebels into the security forces, be politically represented and have economic and land rights. A new fund will pay $750 million a year for 10 years to the impoverished southern and western regions and the chance of return for displaced people is also guaranteed.

Analysts have welcomed the agreement but questioned its inclusiveness and comprehensiveness because of how prominent the role of armed groups and the military is.

Jack Mohamoud Jack, the spokesman of the al-Hilu faction, said his group will not participate in the ceremony, but is ready to start separate negotiations with the Sudanese government. (Writing by Giulia Paravicini; Editing by Katharine Houreld and William Maclean)