Former President Jimmy Carter has brokered a two-month cease-fire between Sudan’s Islamic government and rebels locked in one of Africa’s longest and bloodiest wars.
The cease-fire, to take effect at midnight Tuesday, was announced by Carter and Sudan’s military leader, Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan el-Bashir. In announcing the truce late Monday, Bashir offered rebels a general amnesty if they lay down their arms.
About 1.3 million people have died in the 12-year war or in famines produced by the fighting, which has pitted the Islamic government against Christian and animist southern rebels.
Carter, on a nine-day visit to Africa, said he sought the truce to allow health workers into southern Sudan to try to eradicate the Guinea worm disease.
The water-borne parasite, which can be prevented by boiling water, causes hives, vomiting and diarrhea. Later, the adult worm bores through the body and emerges through the skin. Victims can die if the wound becomes infected or if the diarrhea and vomiting cause severe dehydration.
“The primary purpose of this agreement is to permit the leaders and citizens of Sudan and international agencies … to carry out a major effort to eradicate Guinea worm, prevent river blindness and immunize children against polio and other diseases,” Carter said in a statement released Tuesday by the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.
The cease-fire opens “an opportunity to alleviate the suffering of literally hundreds of thousands of Sudanese who live in the southern part of this country,” the statement said.
The truce was Carter’s latest success in personal diplomacy.
As part of a three-man delegation in September 1994, he successfully negotiated a deal that led Haiti’s military government to step down.
In December, he brokered a ceasefire among the warring factions in Bosnia.
Carter left Khartoum after the cease-fire announcement.