WASHINGTON — Representatives of the Sudanese government and the rebel Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) are scheduled to meet in Ethiopia tomorrow to try to agree on rules formalizing the de facto cease-fire, which has been in place for over a month in the bitter north-south civil war. The United Nations-led relief effort is struggling to move thousands of tons of food into the devasted south under cover of the cease-fire. While the UN effort is moving in the right direction, it is encountering serious problems from both sides in the conflict and is far behind schedule, a US official says.
The situation could grow worse. SPLA leader John Garang warned this week that his group may not extend its unilateral cease-fire when it expires June 15, unless Sudan's government begins to implement more vigorously agreed steps to end the conflict.
Colonel Garang, who is visiting the US at the invitation of several US legislators and former President Carter, says Sudan's government is showing bad faith by not ``suspending'' Islamic laws, abrogating military treaties with Egypt and Libya, or lifting the state of emergency as agreed under a tentative peace accord crafted last November. Garang wants the government to present a law to Parliament formally suspending Islamic law as a sign of good faith. He says he will respond by extending the cease-fire.
Informed Western diplomats say Sudan's government is taking steps to implement the accords, but the SPLA is upping its demands and playing hard to get. That, they say, is undermining those in Khartoum who favor peace.
US officials say they will continue to press both sides to get serious, particularly about helping starving civilians. But it will take more than pressure from Washington to get the parties of this civil war to the negotiating table, they add.