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A cautious welcome for Sudan’s new peace deal 

Sudanese protesters wave their national flag outside the army headquarters in Khartoum, Sudan, in April 2019. (Keystone/EPA/STRINGER)

Sudan’s power-sharing government signed a peace deal with an alliance of rebel groups last week, sparking hopes of an end to decades of conflict. With violence rising in Darfur and elsewhere in the country, there’s a lot riding on it.

In Geneva, ICRC officials met with Sudan’s permanent representative and welcomed the agreement, saying they would extend cooperation with the transitional government. And UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet also welcomed the deal, especially the establishment of a special criminal court for Darfur. “These commitments now need to lead to justice, truth, and remedies for victims and their families,” she said. “All those responsible for human rights violations and abuses committed during Sudan’s conflicts must be held to account, in accordance with due process and without unjustified delays.”

The agreement allows for rebels to be given government posts, power to be devolved to local regions, and displaced people to be offered a chance to return home. Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok dedicated the deal – one of his main priorities since the ousting of Omar al-Bashir 14 months ago – to children born in refugee camps, while the UN commended an “historic achievement”. 

But there are reasons to be cautious. Two of Sudan’s main armed groups in Darfur and the southern states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan refused to sign – though one of the groups has since agreed to enter separate talks with the government. With Sudan’s economy in freefall, it’s also unclear how the transitional government will be able to afford the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to make it workable.

Previous agreements in 2006 and 2011 came to little, but with al-Bashir now out of the picture – perhaps soon facing the International Criminal Court – things could be different this time around.