Sudan’s ruling council and rebel leaders have touted peace talks to end the country’s multiple conflicts, a key condition for the country’s removal from the United States’ sponsors of terrorism list.
The council, a transitional government, has made peace-making with rebels fighting Khartoum one of its main priorities.
Being designated a state sponsor of terrorism cuts Sudan off from desperately needed debt relief and financing from lenders such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Removal from the list potentially opens the door for foreign investment.
The council took over the government in August when military and civilian parties and protest groups signed a three-year power-sharing deal after months of strife following the removal of authoritarian president Omar al-Bashir in April.
South Sudan brought together members of the council and rebel leaders from several areas for the latest talks.
“We need to learn how to resolve our differences and conflicts through peaceful means rather than using force. Using force will lead us nowhere except for the killing of our own people and the destruction of our countries,” said South Sudanese President Salva Kiir.
Thousands of people have been killed in Sudan’s civil wars, including the conflict in the western Darfur region, where rebels have been fighting the government since 2003.
In August, Sudanese officials and rebels set a two-month period for talks.
The talks will potentially deal with issues of how any cessation of hostilities will be monitored and set out ways of providing humanitarian access to all parts of Darfur and the Blue Nile region.
“Anchoring the peace process in principle of inclusivity and a vested interest in the well-being of the people of Sudan is key. It is my hope that our convening will pave the way for agreement to emerge between the transitional government and the other parties to the talks,” said Ethiopian Prime Minister and recent Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed.
Darfur’s war pits local rebel groups drawn largely from African farming tribes complaining about neglect against government forces in a conflict that has displaced about 2.5 million people. Fighting has subsided over the past four years but skirmishes persist.