Sudan government and rebels agree on oil wealth deal

Jan 06, 2004 01:00 AM

Sudanese government and rebel negotiators resolved the key issue of how to share oil wealth, mediators said, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan predicted the two sides could reach a final peace agreement this month.
"They are making very, very good progress," Annan said of the negotiations being held in Kenya. "It is highly possible that before the end of this month, they will have concluded an agreement, and that will be another big New Year's gift to the people of Sudan and the people of Africa," Annan told.

The arrangement reached by the government and the southern-based rebel movement, Sudan People's Liberation Army, addressed one of the main obstacles in their negotiations -- sharing the country's wealth, particularly from oil resources, located mainly in the south. The two sides agreed to split net oil revenue from the south 50:50 during a six-year transition period, said rebel spokesman Samson Kwaje.
"It's a big breakthrough because oil has been at the centre of the fighting," Kwaje told. "It's a very important piece of the agreement."

The agreement would also set up a monetary system allowing for Islamic banking in the north and Western banking in the south and introduce a new national currency, Currently, all Sudan's major banks are run under Islamic law, which forbids most forms of interest.
Africa's longest-running war has left more than 2 mm people dead, mainly through war-induced famine. Sudan's civil war erupted in 1983 when southern rebels took up arms against the predominantly Arab and Muslim north. The rebels say they are fighting for greater equality for the south and for southerners to have the right to choose whether to remain part of Sudan.

Sudan joined the ranks of oil exporters in 1999 and is currently producing some 250,000 bpd. When Sudan began pumping oil, the rebels and international human rights groups accused the Sudanese government of forcing tens of thousands of southern villagers to flee the oil region.
In July 2002, shortly after the peace process began, the parties agreed to a six-year transition period during which the south will have a regional administration. After that period, southerners will vote in a referendum on whether to secede. Two key issues remain in the peace talks: the administration of three disputed areas in central Sudan and power-sharing, which includes the rebel group's representation in a government, National Assembly and civil service during the transition period.

Chief mediator Lazaro Sumbeiywo said the wealth sharing deal was a major breakthrough, but cautioned: "The journey is on, but we have not reached the destination." Peace talks are being held in the Kenyan town of Naivasha, 60 miles northwest of Nairobi.
Under the wealth-sharing agreement, the warring parties agreed that non-oil revenue from the south will also be split 50:50, while all northern revenue will be distributed to northern states and the national government, Kwaje said.

Source: The Associated Press
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