Sudan Hits The Pause Button

Just days ago, it looked as if the peace deal in Sudan that ended Africa's longest-running civil war would have a very short life.

That war - separate from the Darfur conflict and leaving more than 2 million people dead - seemed about to restart when riots recently erupted across the country.

The clashes were sparked by the death of southern rebel leader John Garang, killed in a helicopter crash July 30. The charismatic leader, who signed the peace accord ending the 21-year war between north and south in January, had just been installed as the first vice president of a new Sudanese unity government.

But for now, the gloomy scenario of a return to violence is not playing out. For that, all of the main players deserve credit: Sudan President Omar al-Beshir has promised to abide by the peace agreement "letter by letter." He also set up an internationally monitored, joint north-south investigation of the probably accidental crash. The US, the driving force behind the pact, sent two senior officials to the country and President Bush called Garang's widow to thank her for urging calm.

Also, the Sudan People's Liberation Army, which Garang led, quickly selected a new leader, Salva Kiir Mayardit. Some worry he lacks the stature of his predecessor to ensure peace. But leading a military campaign and establishing a consensus-driven civil government are two different things, and Mr. Kiir seems more suited to this than was Garang.

No one underestimates the challenges ahead. But if Sudan's north-south peace is to take root, all parties will have to follow through with the resolve they've shown lately.

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