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When I first began to cover Darfur in 2003 – nobody was interested. The story was all about the north-south peace talks in Naivasha. “Where’s Darfur again – is that in the south?” I would often hear.
But once Darfur’s conflict stalled the Naivasha talks to end Africa’s longest civil war, and reports of appalling atrocities in Sudan’s west began to seep into the public domain, Darfur became the only story. It overshadowed even the historic 2005 north-south peace deal named “comprehensive” because the negotiators said it would resolve all of Sudan’s problems.
Year after year Darfur dominated the diplomacy and headlines while many in Sudan kept warning – don’t forget the north-south problem – it will come back to haunt you.
After years of neglecting the north-south accord, much of which was either not fully implemented – or done only after threats and standoffs – here we are again at crisis point where Sudan is heading for an acrimonious split and again there is a battle to implement the final chapter – the referendum on southern secession.