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Independent Online – Sudan ‘s first cabinet of unity has been born of months of intense jockeying between former foes and it now has six years to make a united Sudan appear as an attractive option to the south. The national government of unity was announced late on Tuesday, ending a bitter bout of wrangling over the line-up between the president’s ruling party and former southern rebels.

“This government is a good omen and represents the will of the Sudanese people to establish peace and consolidate national unity,” President Omar al-Beshir said.

The establishment of the interim joint administration represents a landmark in shoring up the January peace deal that ended 21 years of civil war in Africa ‘s largest country. The interim government is to remain in place until legislative elections in about four years. In the south, six years of interim rule began in July. At the end of this the region is to hold a referendum on independence.

David Mozersky, an analyst with the International Crisis Group think-tank, said the formation of the government could speed up implementation of key features of the peace process.

“The worrisome thing that emerged, however, is that, more and more, each and every step along the way appears to be up for discussion and is reopened for negotiation,” he said, adding that the cabinet was formed almost two months late and only after bitter wrangling.

One of the main bones of contention was the distribution of key portfolios, such as energy and finance. Beshir’s National Congress Party was finally given both. The former rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) was given the foreign ministry and eight other portfolios, but the old northern regime holds most of the key jobs, a pattern that could fuel southern sentiment.

“Even if the SPLM had all the top jobs, the process of making unity attractive would be very long and difficult,” Mozersky said.

“It’s a matter of changing a whole system and the way the government treats people.”

The mainly black Christian southerners say they continue to be treated as “second-class citizens” or “slaves” by the mainly Arab Muslim north and suspect Khartoum ‘s peace efforts are not sincere.