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Fundamentals for peace-building in Sudan

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Monday could mark a bright beginning for Sudan, Africa's largest country. Peace talk negotiators will be reassembling in neighboring Kenya to tackle one of the longest-running wars in the world. Progress has been made since talks first began last July - but difficult work still lies ahead.

Two million people are dead from this civil war, which began in 1983. Four million are displaced. The war - over the distribution of power and wealth, the fair treatment of all Sudanese, and the relationship between state and religion - has drained the government's resources. Almost nothing is left for investment in roads, schools, health clinics, or agriculture. Ninety percent of Sudanese struggle simply to survive.

Neither the war nor the suffering has to continue. A peace accord could end a grievous humanitarian catastrophe and be a major step toward stabilizing one of the world's most volatile regions.

Success at the talks could bring peaceful villages where mothers and children walk without the fear of bombs, a generation of young men engaged in farming instead of fighting, markets full of food grown in the rich earth of Sudan rather than collected off relief planes, neighbors at worship in mosques and churches giving thanks for a shared spirit of tolerance.

Sudanese are yearning for the opportunity to live out this vision. During a recent visit I made to Mabior, in the vast swampland on either side of the Nile in southern Sudan, community leaders anxiously asked for an update on the peace talks. I told them that my meetings over the prior week with senior officials in Khartoum had given me renewed hope. As my words were translated, everyone cheered - my brief report being a cause for celebration by people desperate for peace.

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