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Sat Dec 03 17:38:00 SAST 2016

Bashir extends ceasefire in 3 Sudan conflict regions

AFP | 2016-10-11 12:24:37.0
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir attends the closing session ofÊSudan's National Dialogue at the Friendship Hall in Khartoum, Sudan, October 10, 2016.
Image by: MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH / REUTERS

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir on Monday extended by two months a unilateral ceasefire in three regions, where fighting between government forces and rebels has killed tens of thousands of people.

In June, Bashir declared a unilateral four-month truce in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions.

On Monday, he said he was extending the truce "to the end of the year'" without giving a specific date.

Fighting in Blue Nile and South Kordofan has eased since June largely due to the rainy season which floods roads in the two states, preventing military operations of any size.

However, fierce fighting has continued to rock Darfur's mountainous Jebel Marra area.

Last week rights group Amnesty International said Sudanese troops used suspected chemical weapons there between January and September, in attacks that killed scores of children and civilians.

The conflict in Darfur -- a region of the size of France -- erupted in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against Bashir's Arab-dominated government, accusing it of marginalising the region.

Similar conflicts also erupted in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states ever since neighbouring South Sudan broke away in 2011.

Bashir announced the truce extension at the final session of a national dialogue aimed at resolving the insurgencies in Sudan's border regions and the country's faltering economy.

The Sudanese president launched the dialogue in October 2015 but the talks have been boycotted by most mainstream opposition and armed groups.

On Monday, Bashir submitted a "national document" which will serve as a framework for Sudan's new constitution.

The document has been signed by the government and some small opposition and rebel groups who took part in the year-long talks.

Sudan currently has a transitional constitution adopted ahead of the country's north-south split in 2011.

"This document is an agreement that from today nobody will use violence for political reasons," said Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes in Darfur.

Some 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur, according to the United Nations, with another 2.5 million displaced in the region.

Monday's closing session of the national dialogue was attended by regional leaders, including Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his Chadian counterpart Idriss Deby.

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