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Sudan's prime minister makes "historic" visit to rebel stronghold

Brother and sister in a Nuba Mountains village in 2018. Photo: Paul Jeffrey/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

Thursday was a remarkable day in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains, with senior officials including Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok visiting the rebel stronghold for the first time in a decade alongside officials from the UN, which was itself forced out of the area in 2011.

The big picture: The region remained part of Sudan after South Sudan broke away in 2011. That led to a rebellion that was put down through a relentless bombing campaign. The war-ravaged area remained almost entirely cut off from international aid until now.

  • That all happened on the brutal watch of dictator Omar al-Bashir, who was toppled last April after a popular uprising and replaced by a government that includes both generals and civilians.

What they're saying: David Beasley, chief of the UN’s World Food Program and a former South Carolina governor, helped facilitate dialogue between that government and rebel leader Abdel-Aziz al-Hilu, who joined Hamdok on Thursday for a meeting that was rich in symbolism and hope.

  • “It’s earth-breaking, it’s historic, it’s remarkable to see these two leaders who represent such a history of war, conflict and division come together with a new spirit. It was so great to see this take place today,” Beasley told Axios in a phone interview after taking part in the meeting.
  • “When you think about how much has been achieved in the last 90 days, we really are on the right track. It’s unprecedented."

Where things stand: The political situation remains precarious, as does access to food and other resources.

  • “The next 12 months are going to be critical to Sudan,” Beasley told Axios. “They're going to need the international community to step up in a significant way. And I believe Sudan, they will make the changes that need to be made. But in this economic transition, there’s going to have to be substantial humanitarian support.”

Go deeper: Heroic doctor on the need for help in the Nuba Mountains