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The man behind Sudan's peace deal
January 11, 2005

The general admits he had sleepless nights
Relieved and humbled are the words the mediator who brought to an end one of Africa's longest-running civil wars used to describe his feelings as Sudan's government and southern rebels signed their historic peace deal on Sunday.

"I feel that God really chose to use me in these negotiations, I feel very humbled," General Lazaro Sumbeiywo, a retired Kenyan general, told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

"It's been very difficult and it's been very frustrating, at times very, very trying."

For more than two years - as chief mediator on behalf of the regional body Igad - he has tirelessly worked to keep both sides at the negotiating table, in what at times must have seemed a thankless task.

He admitted there had been a number of sleepless nights, when both parties dug in their heels and refused to compromise.

"Actually I remember two occasions when I prayed through the night," he said.


But even in dark periods, when neither side wanted to budge, the general never thought of giving up.

"I've never ever had the thought of leaving it. Especially when you've travelled in the Sudan - you will never leave it."

They hate being pushed around

Gen Sumbeiywo

End of war?
Some 1.5 million have died in the fighting, which for 21 years has pitted the Muslim north against the Christian and animist south - leaving much of the south in ruins and in desperate need of development.

The talks' most memorable day was the arrival of rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army leader John Garang to meet with his negotiating opposite Sudan's Vice-President Ali Osman Taha, the general said.

"That was the day I knew we were moving somewhere."

After years in their company, Gen Sumbeiywo felt there were no major differences between Sudan's northerners and southerners.

"They are very soft-hearted people. They are very homely people.

"And they hate being pushed around," he added.

Despite their initial intransigent positions, both parties were hugging each other at the end of the negotiations - when at first they never even used to greet one another, he said.

"They have established a rapport which I think will go on for a very long time."


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