The Sudan Call umbrella opposition group is in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia today and are expected to sign the AU-brokered Roadmap Peace agreement.
On March 19, members of the Sudan Call umbrella originally refused to sign the agreement saying it excluded key opposition groups and would operate through a dialogue process the opposition alleges is government-controlled.
Sudan Call looks set to reverse this rejection after receiving reassurances from the African Union Chief Negotiator Thabo Mbeki that the opposition’s outstanding concerns would be included during the roadmap discussions.
The signing of the roadmap agreement takes place during a ceasefire declared by President Omar al-Bashir on June 18 between Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement / Army – North (SPLM/A-N) in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile State.
Despite announcing the ceasefire, two sets of Sudan Air Force Sukhoi jets flew at low altitude on Sunday over the rebel-controlled capital, Kauda, sending people running from their farms and a church service. The two planes roared overhead at 9:50 am local time and again at 12:50 pm, according to observers on the ground. Nuba Reports filmed the planes in a mobile video clip above.
The ceasefire has been repeatedly breached. On July 11 and 14, militias aligned with Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) attacked a farming area in Lima, South Kordofan State, killing one woman, Fatima Ibrahim. Three days later, the same SAF-aligned militia along with SAF soldiers attacked the Lima area again but were repelled by SPLA-N forces. Fighting also broke out between the rebels and SAF forces on August 1 in the Um Serdiba area of South Kordofan, for unclear reasons.
SAF are currently occupying major farmland areas in the Nuba Mountains in Karkaria, Mardes and Al Azrak, leading to mass displacement and curbed crucial farming for the region. The unprecedented SAF attack and now occupation of the fertile AlAzarak region will deny the Heiban County population key harvests that may lead to cases of starvation next year. Normally the onset of the rainy season curbs fighting since the heavy rains makes road transport impossible. This year, however, Nuba Reports has monitored higher military activity than in the previous two years.
After signing the roadmap agreement today, in what opposition Umma Party leader Sadiq al-Mahdi has termed a “national ceremony”, the government and SPLM-N are expected to negotiate the terms for a cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access to the war-affected areas. A challenging task, says civil society activist Hafiz Ismail Mohamed, given that past negotiations over these issues have failed. “The remaining question will still be, will the government accept an agreement in line with the terms of the Switzerland January 2002 ceasefire agreement which managed to open access for delivery of humanitarian assistance, allowed freedom of movement,” Ismail said in a column.