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Fresh Sudan peace pact builds off of deeper efforts

Northern Sudan signed a peace deal with forces allied to South Sudan on Tuesday. The agreement builds off of earlier peace-making efforts, including trips to Indonesia's war-torn Aceh Province and Kenya to study ways to resolve entrenched conflict.

By Scott BaldaufStaff writer / June 29, 2011

A truck piled high with looted items drives past businesses and homesteads burning in the central city of Abyei, Sudan. A recently signed accord between the rival North and South requires Northern troops to withdraw, fueling tensions.

Stuart Price/AFP/UNMIS/Newscom

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Kadugli, Sudan

Just days before South Sudan becomes the world's newest country on July 9, forces loyal to the semiautonomous region's Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) have been sucked into clashes with troops loyal to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted at the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

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On Tuesday, though, Mr. Bashir's Islamist-dominated Northern government signed a peace pact with with the SPLM's northern branch.

The agreement fell short of calling for a cease-fire in the border state of South Kordofan – the scene of heavy recent fighting that security experts say could reignite the decades-long civil war that killed some 2 million people before it ended in 2005 – but it does lay out a framework for shared governance of tumultuous border areas.

There is no shortage of skepticism as to whether such a pact will bring peace to the area, but it builds off of earlier efforts, including trips to Indonesia's war-torn Aceh Province and Kenya to study ways to resolve entrenched conflict.

Given the current fighting, it's easy to dismiss the US-funded trips as an abysmal failure. But the participants in the innovative effort to help conflict-ridden countries learn from each other say they feel as if they were participating in the one last chance to find peace – and that they very nearly achieved it.

"I'm glad we did that trip, and I know we are not going to duplicate what happened in Aceh here in Sudan; we are going to decide our own process," says Ahmed Saeed, a local SPLM parliamentarian who participated in the trips. "But despite this, this is an opportunity to transform our government system. If we do it here in South Kordofan, we can help to transform the rest of Sudan."

The hopefulness of that statement seemed irreparably lost as Sudanese Army planes bombed Mr. Saeed's SPLM comrades in the mountains around South Kordofan's capital, Kadugli, a couple weeks ago. But it's emblematic of the months of discussions and frenetic travel by senior local leaders of both parties.

These trips offer a model for future peacemaking.

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