Sudan: fighting continues but agreement offers hope of peace

 An agreement was signed last month between the government of Sudan and the main opposition group, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army, which has the potential to end two decades of devastating civil war. The Machakos Protocol, signed on 20 July, has been welcomed by Christian Aid partners such as the New Sudan Council of Churches (NSCC) in the south and the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) in the north. The protocol tackles issues such as the separation of religion and state and includes the right to self-determination for the people of South Sudan. Under it, this right can be exercised through a referendum after a six year interim period. However, the parties have not yet reached agreement on how valuable resources such as oil can be fairly shared between north and south, and the process has not engaged with opposition movements in the north of Sudan. A comprehensive cease-fire is yet to be agreed, and fighting continues to affect civilians on the ground. Since the signing of the peace protocol, unconfirmed reports have stated that a Sudanese government attack on the town of Tam in western Upper Nile has caused 1000 casualties. Dan Silvey, Senior Policy Officer with Christian Aid, said: "We are optimistic that in the long term, this peace deal can bring a halt to the tragedy of the civil war, and make a real difference to the lives of the Sudanese people. However, the current reports of increased fighting in western Upper Nile suggest that for civilians to be protected, the international community must put in place an effective monitoring and verification system, and the peace process must include a comprehensive cease-fire." source: Christian Aid

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