By Theoneste Asiimwe
East and Horn of Africa Researcher, Great Lakes Centre for Strategic Studies

The Khartoum government and the Eastern Front rebels have signed a protocol on power sharing arrangements that gives the rebels a Presidential Assistant post and other high level positions.

In the protocol, besides the post of Presidential Assistant, the rebels were also accorded posts at the national and regional levels. These include that of a ministerial post, a governor in one of the three states in the east, one commissioner in each of the three states, an advisor to the governor of Khartoum State as well as eight members in the national parliament plus 60 members in regional and local consultative councils. In the wealth sharing protocol, a special development fund for the impoverished eastern provinces was also provided.


“A fund dedicated to the East’s “deadly trio”, namely education, health and water has been set up. It will provide 600 million dollars (480 million euros) over five years in a bid to solve these problems,” said Eastern Front Secretary General Mabruk Mubarak Salim this week.


The Great Lakes Centre for Strategic Studies (GLCSS) believes that the conclusion of the peace agreement with the Eastern rebels is a move by the government to reverse the pressure to deploy foreign troops on its soil. If Khartoum can resolve the Eastern question in the same way it did to the southern conflict, it is believed, all efforts would be concentrated on the Darfur conflict. The recent reports that Sudan plans to deploy about twenty thousand troops to restore peace in Darfur corroborates this analysis.


 Recently, as another positive sign, the Khartoum government restored diplomatic relations with Chad and the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding where they agreed not to support rebels fighting each other. Also, the Eritrean mediation effort and the visit of the Eritrean President Isyas Afewerki to Khartoum last June was seen as revitalizing  bilateral and diplomatic relations between the two countries.


The Asmara government sponsored the talks without the presence of the international community and said it was doing so in line with the aspirations of Africans to solve their own problems. The eastern conflict has been a liability to both countries. Although the east is underdeveloped, the region is home to Sudan’s largest gold mine, its main port and a major oil pipeline and also borders Eritrea which is one of Sudan’s main export markets.


In summary, the conclusion of the peace talks with the Eastern Front benefits all parties but more especially the rebels who have always depended on former southern rebels and western Darfur rebels whom they shared similar grievances.  However, it remains to be seen whether the agreement will be implemented with the Darfur problem still at large.


Continued unrest in Darfur might distract Khartoum from implementing the peace deal with the Eastern Front, as has been the case in South Sudan. According to the UN Security Council report, some of the basic tenets set out in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA including election planning and dividing oil revenues have not been met and there are continued threats from top government officials that they could cancel the implementation of CPA once there is a military confrontation with UN in Darfur.


William Church is director of the Great Lakes Centre for Strategic Studies, a London-based think tank with offices in Central and East Africa. You may contact William Church at GLCSS trains African journalists, offers an on-site internship to foreign African studies students, and manages an exchange program with journalists from the United Kingdom, the United States and Europe.

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