KHARTOUM, Sudan — In an attempt to unify the nation, the leader of Sudan's new military regime has offered to re-establish the country's predominantly black southern region as a single political entity, Sudan radio said Thursday.
Gen. Abdul-Rahman Suwar Dahab's offer was made to a group of soldiers and civilians who have been negotiating for a week over the composition of an interim government to replace the toppled regime of President Jaafar Numeiri.
It appeared that there was a positive response to the offer because an official spokesman announced here late Thursday that John Garang, the leader of insurgents in the southern part of the country, was on his way to Khartoum to meet with Dahab either today or Saturday.
The south, populated mostly by Christians and animists of African descent, was divided into three administrative sectors by Numeiri in 1983. That move violated a 1972 agreement that ended a 17-year civil war between the people of the south and the Arabs who dominate the northern part of the country.
That division of the south, combined later in 1983 with the imposition of Islamic law on the entire country, began the unraveling of Numeiri's regime. It alienated the southerners and gave rise to the new southern rebellion led by Garang, a U.S.-educated former colonel in the Sudanese army.
Political analysts saw Dahab's offer to politically reunite the south--and possibly restore the autonomy the south enjoyed before 1983--as a well-timed stroke to undercut support for Garang, whose money and arms come from Ethiopia and Libya. Garang, a black southerner, commands about 10,000 guerrillas, mostly from the Dinka tribe.
Garang's credibility already has been questioned by his supporters because he had said his rebellion was aimed only at removing Numeiri from power. Numeiri is gone now, but Garang has not responded to several conciliatory gestures from Dahab, including the offer of a seat on the interim Cabinet.
3 Seats Offered
Dahab has offered three Cabinet seats to southern representatives but the southerners are holding out for five seats and, among other demands, want Islamic law abolished. Numeiri had applied the legal system, called \o7 sharia, \f7 to non-Muslims as well as Muslims.
After Numeiri was overthrown April 6 while returning to Khartoum from a trip to Washington, Garang declared a unilateral seven-day cease-fire in his rebellion but said he would resume fighting if Dahab did not hand over power to a civilian government during that period. Even Garang's supporters considered the timetable unreasonable after 16 years of military rule under Numeiri.