10 January 2005

Sudan Peace Agreement Heralds Many Firsts


Nairobi — Two currencies, dual banking systems, two flags and two armies in one nation - These were some of the concessions made following yesterday's historic signing of the Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

According to the wealth and power-sharing agreement, Sudan will remain as one country for a six-year transitional period.

After that, the mainly Christian and secular south will have the option of separating from the largely Muslim and Arab north. And come 2011, if the union is acceptable to southerners, they will remain part of the larger Sudan.

"There will be one bank with one door and two windows," said the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) spokesman, Dr Samson Kwaje.

The south, which has eight states and eight million people, will have the dinar as its currency while the north will continue using the pound, which was rejected in the south.

Each of the two territories will have its own flag. The north will continue using the flag designed at independence in 1956, which has red, black, white and green colours in that order.

Sudanese church leaders wave their country's flag during the signing ceremony of the peace agreement.

The south will have a new flag that closely resembles Kenya's in its features and colours. A black stripe at the top represents the identity of the eight million people. There is a star against a blue background representing the River Nile. It signifies a future with optimism for the people of southern Sudan.

Red stands for the blood shed by the southern Sudanese in the 21 years of armed conflict while green stands for the region's agricultural potential.

Even though the peace agreement was described as "satisfactory" by both sides, the SPLM was uncomfortable with the existence of two armies.

Sudan, which has 26 states, is Africa's largest country with a land mass of two million square kilometres. If the south chooses to go it alone, the north will remain with 18 states.

In the run-up to the agreement, several concessions were made by both parties, but the last agreement was based on "a just political settlement".

"On December 31, 2004, Dr Garang and Vice President Ali Osman Taha officially ended the war honourably through a fair and just political agreement," said Dr Kwaje.

The 21-year war centred on race, religion and the vast oil deposits.

Half of the country's earnings come from oil. About half of the oil deposits are found in southern Sudan but the people in the south feel deprived of wealth and oppressed by the largely Arab and Muslim north.

With the peace deal in the bag, Khartoum can now focus on ending the Darfur crisis which has overshadowed the much older southern war that dates back to 1983.

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