September 10, 2019 / 1:52 PM / 5 days ago

Sudan's prime minister to join peace talks in Juba with rebels

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - New Sudan prime minister Abdalla Hamdok will head to South Sudan for peace talks between the ruling sovereign council and rebel leaders, the information minister said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Sudan Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok speaks during joint press conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Khartoum, Sudan September 3, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo

Faisal Saleh told reporters after the cabinet’s first meeting that Hamdok, in his first foreign visit, would join five members of the ruling sovereign council in the South Sudanese capital Juba on Thursday.

Sudan’s transitional government has made peacemaking with rebels fighting Khartoum one of its main priorities as it is a key condition for the country’s removal from the United States’s sponsors of terrorism list.

Thousands of people have been killed in Sudan’s civil wars, including the conflict in the western Darfur region, where rebels have been fighting against then-President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s government since 2003.

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.

The fighting in Darfur has subsided over the past four years where the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and two factions of the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) are active, but skirmishes persist.

JEM leader Jibril Ibrahim as well as the SLA faction headed by Minni Minawi are present at the Juba talks while Abdel Wahid el-Nur’s faction is absent, officials and rebel sources said.

Rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, two southern regions in Sudan, have largely committed to a ceasefire over the past two years. They have been fighting Khartoum’s rule since ending up on the Sudanese side of the border when South Sudan seceded in 2011.

Both factions, headed by Malik Agar and Abdelaziz al-Hilu, are present at the talks.

South Kordofan and Blue Nile are home to large communities who sided with the south during decades of civil war with Khartoum. Many say they have been marginalized by the Khartoum government since South Sudan declared independence in July under a 2005 peace deal.

Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Nadine Awadalla,; Editing by Ulf Laessing and Ed Osmond

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