Sudan’s ruling council and rebel leaders started 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, made peace with rebels fighting Khartoum a main priority.
Being designated a state sponsor of terrorism cuts Sudan off from 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.
Arriving in Juba on Monday, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, a member of the sovereign council and head of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, expressed optimism.
“We start negotiations with open hearts and are serious about bringing peace to Sudan,” Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, said.
The council took over 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 members of the council and rebel leaders from several areas together for the latest talks.
Thousands have been killed in Sudan’s civil wars, including the conflict in western Darfur, where rebels have been fighting government since 2003.
In August, Sudanese officials and rebels set a two-month period for talks starting on October 14.
“This should be the last round of talks to address the root causes of war and marginalisation,” said Yasir Arman, deputy chairman of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLM-North).
“We are determined 2020 should be the year of peace in Sudan.”
The talks will potentially deal with issues of monitoring cessation of hostilities and set out ways of providing humanitarian access to Darfur and the Blue Nile region.
Darfur’s war pits local rebel groups from African farming tribes complaining about neglect against government forces in a conflict that displaced about 2.5 million people. Fighting subsided over the past four years but skirmishes persist.