Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
2 - 8 December 1999
Issue No. 458
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

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An untenable reconciliation

The agreement signed in Djibouti this week between Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir and former Prime Minister and Ummah Party leader Sadeq Al-Mahdi can only weaken current efforts to effect a reconciliation between Khartoum and its exiled opponents, and to end the ongoing war in southern Sudan.

The former prime minister appears to have acted entirely on his own initiative, neither consulting other members of the opposition, nor those countries which have been long concerned with restoring peace to Sudan. And the result is that the picture is now even more confused, as yet another new initiative for reconciliation has been introduced onto the scene.

The thawing in relations between Cairo and Khartoum came only after Egypt had received assurances that the Sudanese government was sincere in its desire to build normal relations with its neighbours and end the fundamentalist policies which had led to its isolation on both the regional and international levels. And after Egypt had initiated steps in rebuilding relations with Sudan, many countries followed suit, welcoming the positive signs which were coming out of Khartoum.

Egypt then began to work with Libya, concentrating over the past five months on a comprehensive initiative to bring stability to Sudan and end the 15-year-old civil war in the south. Cairo has consistently reiterated its commitment to preserving Sudan's territorial integrity, and has refused to countenance any alternative schemes aimed at southern secession. and the separation of the south.

Mahdi was among the key figures who met repeatedly with Egyptian officials to coordinate plans for a meeting in Cairo that would, for the first time, bring together the Khartoum government and its opponents within the framework of the Egyptian-Libyan initiative.

This meeting between the Sudanese president and one of his opponents may well be an internal affair. It might even be a positive sign, confirming the commitment of the current government to restoring democracy. But to unilaterally announce a new agreement without consulting other Sudanese opposition groups, let alone those neighbours that have exerted every effort to restore peace, can hardly be viewed as a positive sign.

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