May 5, 2011 / 6:29 PM / 8 years ago

Sudan divides Darfur in five smaller states

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan decided to create two additional states in Darfur, state media said on Thursday in what rebels have condemned as plan to strengthen Khartoum’s control over the troubled western region.

Darfur, scene of an insurgency pitting mostly non-Arab rebels against government troops backed by largely Arab militias, is carved up into three parts — North, South and West Darfur.

Sudan’s cabinet on Thursday approved the creation of two additional states — Central Darfur, with Zalingei as its capital, and Eastern Darfur, with Ed Daein as its capital, state news agency SUNA said.

The rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) has said the move aimed at weakening their influence, divide Darfur along tribal lines and breaking up its ethnic powerbases.

The African insurgency has commanded a great deal of international attention and sparked a humanitarian emergency which has claimed 300,000 lives and driven more than 2 million people from their homes.

Khartoum plans to hold a referendum on July 1 on making Darfur a single region to upgrade its status despite rebel demands to wait until a peace deal has been signed.

Qatar has hosted peace talks that have been delayed by rebel divisions and continued military operations on the ground as Khartoum has gradually reasserted control over major towns and other previously rebel-held areas.

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide committed during Khartoum’s counter-insurgency campaign launched in Darfur after rebels took up arms demanding more of a share in wealth and power in 2003.

Sudan’s oil-producing south is due to break away from Khartoum on July 9 after its people voted overwhelmingly to secede in a January referendum, a vote promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of north-south civil war.

Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Jon Hemming

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