Sudan Signs Darfur Deal (19/07/2011)

Sudan on Thursday signed a peace accord with a small Darfur rebel group, but analysts and diplomats expect no end to an almost decade-long conflict in the western region as larger groups continue to oppose Khartoum. A counter-insurgency campaign against non-Arab rebels demanding more autonomy in Darfur in 2003 sparked one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, prompting more than two million people to flee. The United Nations says as many as 300,000 people have died, while Khartoum puts the death toll at 10,000. Violence has since subsided but several rounds of peace talks have failed to secure a truce due to rebel divisions and continued military action. Ending the Darfur conflict is one of the main challenges for Khartoum keen to end all insurgencies after ending decades of conflict with the south which became independent on Saturday, the climax of a 2005 peace deal. Qatar has hosted peace talks but the main rebel groups have both refused to sign a deal. Rebel divisions and continued fighting have been the two biggest obstacles to peace talks which have been ongoing since 2003 in Chad, Nigeria and Libya before moving to Doha.  Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who is accused of war crimes in Darfur by the International Criminal Court, flew to the Qatari capital on Wednesday to attend the signing with the small Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM). The most militarily powerful group, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), pulled out of the talks after the government unveiled plans to hold a referendum on the administrative makeup of the arid region. Diplomats say the deal was important for Bashir to showcase his willingness to tackle Darfur as he might now get tougher on the main rebels. Last week, Bashir said Sudan will not attend any more mediation talks on the African country's conflict abroad.