Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok visited rebel bastion of Kauda in South Kordofan, the first senior Khartoum official to travel there since clashes resumed in the area more than eight years ago.
Kauda, east of South Kordofan state capital Kadugli, is base of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N), the main group fighting government in the southern provinces Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
Abdelaziz Al-Hilu, leader of a wing of the SPLM-N, invited Hamdok to Kauda during peace talks with rebel militias in Juba in September.
“This is an opportunity to assure our people in Kauda and all Sudanese your transitional government seeks to achieve a comprehensive and just peace,” a statement from the prime minister’s office quoted Hamdok as saying.
“This was particularly the case for war-torn regions marginalised for decades,” Hamdok told a crowd of people gathered to meet him in Kauda.
Hamdok, a former UN diplomat, took office in August under an agreement between the military and civilian parties after months of demonstrations against generals who seized power after toppling long-serving autocrat Omar al-Bashir.
Clashes between the SPLM-N and the Sudanese government broke out in 2011, just before South Sudan seceded. South Kordofan and Blue Nile states remain in Sudan.
Sustained bombing by Sudanese warplanes caused thousands of civilians to flee, residents said at the time.
President Omar al-Bashir, ousted last year after popular protests, vowed to crush the SPLM-N and say Friday prayers in Kauda, but the militia blocked his attempts.
Bashir’s government fought insurgencies in Kordofan, Darfur and Blue Nile states for decades. The SPLM-N is one of Sudan’s biggest militias.