By Denis Dumo
JUBA (Reuters) - Sudan and a major rebel group signed an agreement on Monday to integrate the rebels into the army within 39 months, signatories said, the latest in a slew of agreements between the Sudanese government and long-running insurgencies.
Sudan's ruling council and rebel groups restarted peace talks in October 2019 to end the conflicts after widespread protests toppled autocrat Omar al-Bashir after a rule of 30 years and a transitional government took power.
The government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) held talks in neighbouring South Sudan and reached an agreement that covers the southern Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile states, said Tut Gatluak, the South Sudanese chief mediator, late on Monday.
"The armed forces will remain intact, and with the joining of the SPLM-North, our national army will be more coherent, strong and ready to deal with any threats to homeland security," Sudanese defence minister Major General Yassin Ibrahim said.
Yasir Arman, deputy head of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), described the security agreement as "historic".
“We will participate in developing, reforming and building of strong and effective armed forces that reflect the diversity and have a new Sudan military doctrine that is far from politicisation," he said.
Sudanese authorities say they are aiming for a comprehensive peace settlement that covers the country’s multiple civil conflicts.
However, a rebel group from the western region of Darfur and a major SPLM-N faction led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu have held back from peace negotiations.
SPLM-N rebels have been active in Sudan’s southern regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where communities that remained within Sudan when South Sudan seceded in 2011 complain of being marginalised by the government in Khartoum.
Under the agreement with Arman’s SPLM-N, the rebel fighters will initially remain in the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile under the command of the Sudanese army for 14 months before redeploying to other parts of the country for 13 months.
At the end of the 39-month transition period, all the rebel units will be dismantled.
(Editing by George Obulutsa, Katharine Houreld and Ed Osmond)