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Conflict

JEM rebels sign ceasefire deal with Sudan

The main Darfur rebel group has signed a ceasefire with Sudan's government. The deal aims to put an end to a decade of violence that has displaced nearly two million people and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

Representatives from the Sudanese government and Darfur's Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) signed the agreement late on Sunday night in Doha. The attempt at brokering peace was not the first by the Middle East nation, but Qatar's deputy prime minister expressed hope that Sunday's deal would hold.

The latest ceasefire "will pave the way for inking a final peace agreement in Darfur between both sides," Ahmed bin Abdullah al-Mahmoud told Qatar's state news agency QNA.

The agency did not detail the terms of the accord, nor whether the JEM was the sole representative of the many rebel groups involved in the conflict.

Violence erupted in 2003, when ethnic black African rebel groups in Darfur - Sudan's western region which spans 170,000 square miles (440,000 square kilometers), or roughly the landmass of Spain - rebelled against the central government, led by Arab officials. The non-Arab insurgents contended that the Muslim government had neglected their rights.

Government troops and militia groups known as janjaweed responded with force against the ethinic Africans in Darfur, leading to the displacement of over 1.8 million civilians and the deaths of over 300,000, according to United Nations estimates.

While stability has reemerged in some areas of Darfur, others remain dangerous despite the presence of an African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force (UNAMID).

Prior to Sunday's accord, Qatar had already attempted to broker a ceasefire between Sudan and its war-torn western region. The 2011 agreement failed to garner full support from the rebel groups, comprised of many different factions. The JEM rejected the peace talks due to its dissatisfaction with the terms.

kms/pfd (AFP, Reuters)