(Photo: LUC GNAGO/Reuters /Landov)
KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — The Sudanese government and a small rebel group from the country's troubled Darfur region signed a peace deal Thursday, but the two main rebel factions were absent from the ceremony.
Thursday's signing in the Qatari capital of Doha was attended by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, representatives from Darfur's Justice and Liberation Movement as well as officials from the U.N. and the African Union.
The deal is meant to provide a basis for a cease-fire, power sharing, equal distribution of wealth and compensation for displaced people.
Darfur has been in turmoil since fighting broke out in 2003 between ethnic African rebels and the government, aided by Arab militias. African rebels accuse the government of discrimination and neglect. The U.N. says 300,000 people have died in the conflict and 2.7 million have fled their homes.
Darfur's two main rebel factions, the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Movement, were not part of Thursday's deal.
"I am not optimistic about this deal since the only rebel partner that signed it has no weight in the region," said Osama Ali, a Khartoum-based analyst. He said the agreement does not provide a mechanism for implementation and international guarantees.
The main Darfur rebel factions backed away from signing the deal because it failed to specify how to resolve key issues, such as appointing a vice president from among the rebels who would enjoy full authority in running the region's affairs, Ali said.
Rebels also demand to turn Darfur into one region instead of three, he added.
Previous peace talks between the government and Darfur's key groups have fallen apart and were marred by renewed clashes between government and rebel forces.