JUBA, Sudan, June 30 (AFP) — Sudanese President Omar el-Beshir on Monday marked the 14th anniversary of the military coup that brought him to power by saying Sudan’s 20-year civil war was nearing an end.
Beshir told a crowd here that the fact he was marking the anniversary for the first time in southcentral Juba, a region which had been hit by war but which was enjoying a period of calm, “meant that peace has already come”.
In his speech to thousands gathered in a stadium, Beshir congratulated the people of Juba for “the atmosphere of peace” and pledged to “rebuild everything destroyed by the war”.
He said: “There will be schools, there will be textboks, there will be hospitals,” while he also inaugurated a mobile phone network for the Juba mountains region.
Among those attending the ceremony were Amr Mussa, the secretary general of the 22-member Arab League, of which Sudan is a part.
Earlier this month, Beshir’s Islamist government in Khartoum and the southern rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) agreed to extend a ceasefire in the Nuba mountains for another six months.
The renewable six-month ceasefire agreement was first signed by the government and SPLA in Switzerland in January 2002 and then extended in July 2002 and again in January 2003.
It was designed as a confidence building measure for an overall peace settlement.
International monitors said the ceasefire agreement had improved living conditions and facilitated freedom of movement between the government- and SPLA- held areas in the Nuba mountains.
The SPLA claims to control most of the region.
Khartoum and the SPLA, which groups southern Christians and animists, are currently trying to finalise a preliminary agreement to end the conflict said to have cost more than 1.5 million lives and displaced four million people since 1983.
In Kenya in July 2002, the two parties signed a peace framework calling for a transition period during which autonomy would be given to the south, before a referendum to determine whether the region would secede or stay part of Sudan.
Kenyan mediators predict a peace settlement could be signed in August.
At the end of June 1989, General Beshir seized power in a coup backed by Islamists.