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Sudan's Garang makes Darfur plea
January 16, 2005
By Waihenya Kabiru
BBC News, Nairobi

Garang says fairness and justice are important
Sudanese rebel leader John Garang has again said that a change of government policy is needed to stop fighting in the western region of Darfur.

Mr Garang, whose SPLM rebels signed a comprehensive peace deal a week ago to end the 21-year war in southern Sudan, was speaking in a BBC interview.

He said the planned national unity government had to move fast to resolve the Darfur conflict peacefully.

Mr Garang becomes vice-president under the peace deal signed in Kenya.

Khartoum has been criticised by the international community for failing to disarm Arab militias, who have been accused of massacring civilians in the region.

There has been slow progress in peace talks in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, between Khartoum and representatives of rebel groups operating in Darfur.

Fighting has been continuing in Darfur despite a ceasefire deal.

Threat to peace?

Mr Garang says he does not think the Darfur conflict would jeopardise the peace deal between the SPLM and the Khartoum government.

However, he says there is a need for a similar comprehensive peace accord for the Darfur region, based on justice and fairness.

The United Nations says it believes the conflict in Darfur is a threat to the peace deal, as continued fighting may lead to an exodus of refugees to the south.

The UN estimates that nearly one million people are expected to return to their homes in the south this year.

The SPLM leader says he supports the cause of rebel groups fighting in Darfur and hopes the first priority for the new coalition government will be to resolve the Darfur issue.


"There has to be a change of policy, a policy that is based on peaceful settlement, a fair and just political settlement achieved through peaceful means, not through war - addressing the concerns of all the groups in Darfur, both the African nationalities and the Arab nationalities," he told the BBC.

The former rebel leader says southern Sudan faces many challenges, among them the reconstruction of the region following more than two decades of civil war.

He says the first priority for an SPLM administration in the south will be the voluntary repatriation of refugees and the provision of basic humanitarian needs.

The UN says there are about four million people who fled the south because of the conflict and who are expected to return.

Many of the relief agencies operating in the south say they have begun preparing for a massive influx of returnees back to their homes.


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