Sudan hopeful for end to civil war
NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) -- Representatives of Sudan's government and its main rebel faction are set to sign parts of a peace deal that could mark the beginning of an end to the country's 19-year-old civil war.
Sudan's Charge d'Affaires in Nairobi Ahmed Dirdery said the deal -- scheduled to be signed near Nairobi on Saturday morning -- outlines a decentralised system of government with a bicameral legislature and provides autonomy for several states in southern Sudan, where the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army, or SPLA, is based.
After a six-year period, people in the south could vote in a referendum to decide whether to stay with Sudan's mainly Arab-Muslim north -- where the government is based -- or form an independent state, according to Dirdery, who is a government representative.
The struggle for more autonomy and a referendum has been a key issue in the SPLA's war with the government since 1983.
The SPLA's spokesman, Samson Kwaje, said the delegations were "in the final stages" of drafting agreements on some issues.
Sources at the talks said thorny issues outlined in a draft peace agreement -- including the topics of a ceasefire and whether Sudanese should live under sharia (strict Islamic law) -- have been tackled, though agreement on them faltered earlier this week when the negotiating team for the SPLA held back.
The deal is scheduled to be signed by Sudan's presidential peace adviser, Dr. Ghazi Salahuddin, and Salva Kiir, a senior SPLA officer who headed the rebel's negotiating team.
Diplomats from Britain, the United States and Norway are expected to observe the signing, and a more formal announcement of what has been achieved is likely to be made on Sunday by Kenya's President Daniel arap Moi.
For nearly two decades, Christians and animist fighters in the south have fought northern Arab-Muslims who run the government.
More than two million people, most of them from the south, have died in the war either as war casualties or from hunger or disease.
The signing is expected to take place in Machakos, about a two-hour drive from Kenya.
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