Witnessed by government officials, African Union and United Nations representatives and hundreds of thousands of local people, the Sudanese government and the Popular Force for Rights and Democracy (PFRD), signed a peace agreement in Genaina, capital of West Darfur, on Saturday.
"The peace agreement will relieve the suffering of our people," said Hisham Norain, leader of the PFRD, a recently established rebel movement which has broken away from the National Redemption Front (NRF), the biggest rebel group, which inked an agreement with the government on Thursday.
"We have reached a positive agreement on the rights, freedom and dignity of our people," Norain told reporters at a news conference after the signing.
"In West Darfur, there are now no rebels and we live in peace," a local villager told China Daily in Arabic through a translator.
His words were echoed by Ahmed Ibrahim, a spokesman for the Sudan Liberation Army Movement, another rebel group and a signatory to the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), reached with the Sudanese government in Nigerian capital Abuja in May 2006.
"People here want peace -- there is no hope for a positive outcome if the war continues," said Ibrahim.
He added that he was expecting refugees to begin returning following the signing of the peace agreement.
Saturday's peace treaty signing was also attended by a special adviser of Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, who said the president had high hopes for the new deal.
Advisor Majzoub al-Khalifa also hit out at US sanctions of Sudan. "The United States has sanctioned Sudan for more than 15 years. Despite the sanctions, our country has flourished with annual growth of 7 to 8 percent," said al-Khalifa. "The real loser is the United States itself. They (Americans) did not support implementation of the DPA, although they should have.
Southern militia integrated
While the peace agreement was being signed in Genaina, in southern Sudan politicians agreed to integrate the region's largest militia into the autonomous southern army.
Analysts say the integration is vital for peace in the region, where a bloody civil war was fought between southern rebels and the northern-based government between 1983 and 2005.
Under a January 2005 peace deal, the former southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) formed an autonomous government in Juba, a north-south coalition government in Khartoum and agreed to share oil wealth of around 500,000 barrels per day with the central government.
(China Daily June 11, 2007)