Sudan: July 21, 2002

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: Sudanese government peace adviser Ghazi Salah Eddin Attabani and Sudanese People's Liberation Army spokesman Samson Kwaje told the press on 20 July that they had reached an agreement on how to resolve the major issues in Sudan's long-running civil war. The latest round of talks in the Kenyan town of Machakos (48 kilometers southeast of Nairobi) were attended by observers from Norway, Britain and the United States.

Talks would resume next month, to draft a final peace deal. The guidelines covered the separation of state and religion, as well as self-determination for the southern Sudanese (which had been one of the rebels' key demands). The two parties agreed to a "period of self-determination for six months" for the government and the rebels during which the constitutional framework will be put in place without interference from either side. In January, the SPLA and the government signed a six-month ceasefire in a first step towards ending the conflict.

However, there was also recent skirmishing and bombing indicative of future operations. A few days prior to the agreement, SPLA rebels commanded by John Garang seized the strategic location of Lafon (around 220 kilometers north of the Kenyan border and 160 km west of Kapoeta). In the southern Sudan, Khartoum's forces continued conducting air raids. The latest occurred on the 19th, but this time the Russian-made Antonovs did not drop bombs. They flew at low altitude, terrorizing the local population and systematically swept over various villages of East Equatoria from 09:00 until 14:00 hours. The residents were forced to seek shelter in makeshift bunkers for several hours. 

Local sources believed that these flights were photo reconnaissance to pinpoints the exact position of the rebel camps and posts, with Khartoum preparing a large-scale offensive to regain control of the two key strongholds. Kiwala, Ikotos and Isoke, already hit by previous air raids, were home to numerous SPLA structures. Government warplanes also dropped 12 bombs on Ikotos on the 19th, wounding two civilians. The Antonov bombers were also seen over the area on five occasions on the 15th, but did not drop any bombs. - Adam Geibel

 

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