SUDAN Calling the shots at Machakos 26th July 2002 Image courtesy of Panos Pictures View site Arch manipulation of American and British peacemakers buys the NIF another six and a half years' time Breakthrough on peace!' shout the headlines. 'It's a sham, it won't work!' protest the National Islamic Front's opponents. Five weeks of closed-door discussions at Machakos, Kenya, between the NIF government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement, ended on 20 July. The talks, under the auspices of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), produced a protocol of understanding and an agreement to reconvene at the Machakos Garden Hotel on 12 August. The enthusiasm came almost entirely from the government side. Its team, led by presidential Peace Advisor Ghazi Salah el Din el Atabani, a core NIF man, talked as if peace already reigned. The SPLA/M delegation, led by Colonel John Garang de Mabior's deputy, Commander Salva Kiir Mayardit, was far less effusive, with good reason. Chaired by Kenya, overseen by Eritrea, Ethiopia and Uganda and driven (in top gear) by Britain and the United States, the talks were heavily weighted in the Sudan government's favour. Southerners say this looks like the usual sell-out; the northern opposition says the process further entrenches the regime, giving it the international blessing which oil wealth had not quite managed to buy.