Sudan cabinet endorses 2 new Darfur states
Khartoum - The Sudanese cabinet on Thursday approved a bill to add two new states to Darfur's existing three, state media reported, in a move the rebels have said undermines the prospects for peace in the war-torn region.
The bill, which still requires parliament's approval, will carve a new eastern and central state out of South and West Darfur, with Al-Daein and Zalingei as their respective capitals, said the official SUNA news agency.
"I think it will make Darfur more safe and secure, because there are many tribes in this region and everyone will have their own state," interior ministry spokesperson Ahmed Tughani told AFP.
But the main rebel groups reacted angrily when the plan was first announced in March, saying it was a policy of "divide and rule," designed to divert attention from the real problems in Darfur and sabotage peace talks in Doha.
Separately, the Sudanese government plans to hold a referendum by July 1 on how Darfur should be governed.
In particular, they will choose whether it should be granted regional status, which it had before 1994 and which could lead to a greater degree of autonomy, or whether it should remain as individual states.
But the voters will have no say on the number of states within the region.
Rebel groups have warned conducting the vote before a political agreement has been reached will also torpedo foundering peace talks in the Qatari capital, with which Khartoum has signalled its growing frustration at the lack of progress.
At least 300 000 people have been killed in Darfur and 1.8 million people fled their homes since the conflict broke out erupted in 2003 between non-Arab rebels and the Arab-dominated Khartoum regime, the United Nations says.
The government puts the death toll at 10 000.