Peace A Reality

Editorial, The Arab News

July 10, 2005 -- Yesterday's swearing-in in Khartoum of John Garang as Sudan's new vice president is the most important inauguration in the country's history since independence. Finally, after 22 years of civil war between north and south, with over a million and a half dead, after so many broken cease-fires, after so many agreements that vanished almost as soon as the ink was dry, after so many delays even following January's peace agreement with the SPLM, change has actually occurred. Without that inauguration, without Garang actually in Khartoum and feted there as vice president, it would have been impossible to believe that the war might finally be over. There had been too many failures before. True, refugees had started crossing the borders and returning to their homes in the south, but no one in the country was ready to believe that peace had really arrived until there was some piece of irrefutable, tangible evidence. Garang's swearing-in, along with the new power-sharing constitution he and President Omar Al-Bashir have signed, is that evidence. It provides ultimate proof that the war is over and peace a reality.

That peace may even extend to Sudan's other conflict in Darfur. The agreement just a couple of days earlier in the Nigerian capital Abuja between the Sudanese government and the two rebel groups in Darfur to resolve the conflict there may or may not be coincidental; that does not matter. It may yet go the way of so many peace agreements in Sudan's past; that has to be accepted. For once, however, it is possible to have hope, to believe that Sudan, Darfur included, has a future, that all its peoples can look forward to peace and prosperity rather than war and exile. There is a new political order in Khartoum.

Forged in the heat of 22 years of a seemingly intractable civil war that pitted faiths, tribes and peoples against each other, it has found a path to peace based on mutual respect. If it can do that where there was such hatred, such determination by both sides to crush the other totally, then it should not be too difficult to deal with the far less bitter and less complex issue of Darfur. Indeed, there is every reason to believe that, freed from the problems of the south and no longer propelled by narrow nationalist ideologies, the new order in Khartoum can and will put an end to the Darfur conflict - and rapidly.

But the international community has a role to play as well. It is not enough gracing Garang's inauguration - as did United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and South African President Thabo Mbeki, among other world leaders - as if to confer an international official blessing on the change in Sudan. The world pushed hard for this peace deal. It promised vast amounts of aid to the war-torn south and held out the promise that Sudan would be helped to develop a vibrant economy if it went through. So far, aid has been noticeable by its absence. There is no excuse for that now. Sudan has delivered on its promises. The international community must do likewise. Otherwise the whole deal could unravel


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