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Peace deal signed by Sudan & rebel groups after 17 years of conflict

The government of Sudan and an alliance of major rebel groups have signed a long-awaited peace agreement. It is hoped it will end the protracted armed conflict, which has claimed some 300,000 lives in the African nation.

The signing ceremony in Juba, the capital of neighboring South Sudan, took place on Monday, two days after the terms of the agreement were finalized. The host nation helped mediate the peace talks, which started last year.

The peace agreement covers major issues like security, land ownership, power sharing and rehoming of refugees. Some 2.5 million people have been displaced since the conflict between predominantly Arab government forces and non-Arab rebels in the western Darfur region erupted in 2003, according to the UN. An estimated 300,000 people have been killed during the fighting.

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The rebel alliance, which signed the deal, includes groups from the South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions, which are tied to a larger civil war in Sudan. The provinces remained under Sudanese sovereignty when the non-Arab part of the country split in 2011 to form sovereign South Sudan.

The peace talks were made possible by the downfall of Sudan’s long-time strongman leader Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted in April last year after staying in power for two decades. The transitional government made negotiations with the rebels one of its top priorities.

There were previous attempts to end the Sudanese conflict, with one peace accord signed in Nigeria in 2006 and another one in Qatar in 2010, both of which later collapsed.

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