SPLM/A alleges cease-fire violations in Nuba

NAIROBI
Feb 7, 2002 (IRIN)

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) claimed on Wednesday that Sudanese government forces had attacked its positions in the Nuba Mountains region of Southern Kordofan, south-central Sudan, violating for the second time a cease-fire agreement both parties had signed on 19 January.

The SPLM/A spokesman, Samson Kwaje, told IRIN on Thursday that he feared the six-month cease-fire deal was in danger of collapsing if the international community failed to apply pressure on the Sudanese government to honour its commitments under the agreement.

"Khartoum has broken it twice in 10 days, first on 23 January and then on 3 February. This means they are not serious with their commitment. There are so many agreements Khartoum has broken. They have never negotiated with us faithfully," Kwaje said.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the rebel movement claimed that the garrison commander of the Sudanese government forces at Reka Station had "ordered two companies to move out of their base and [they then] opened fire at our forces at Tasare in a determined attempt to provoke new hostilities that would put into tatters the cease-fire".

SPLA forces had "withheld their fire in respect of the cease-fire agreement", Kwaje claimed.

The statement also claimed that government forces had now taken up a position "on top of a mountain overlooking the nearby SPLA base at Tasare", contrary to the cease-fire agreement.

"The SPLM regards these violations with great concern as they hamper the smooth delivery of badly needed humanitarian assistance to the people of Nuba Mountains after a decade's isolation from the international community due to repeated denial of access to the areas by Khartoum," the statement said.

Muhammad Ahmad Dirdiery, charge d'affaires at the Sudanese embassy in Nairobi, told IRIN on Thursday that there had been no shooting incidents in the region since the cease-fire agreement came into effect on 22 January, and that a Joint Security Committee [JMC], appointed by both parties to implement the cease-fire, was "already handling the situation on the ground, and there has been no shooting at all".

"The incident they are referring to, in fact did not even happen. They are not even claiming casualties," Dirdiery said.

Kwaje urged the governments of the United States and Switzerland, under whose initiative the agreement was negotiated, to speed up the formation of a JMC, and the deployment of an International Monitoring Unit (IMU), provided for under the agreement and designed to supervise the cease-fire.

Members of the JMC were expected to arrive in Sudan by 5 March to set up an implementing committee, with the IMU - comprising 10 to 15 military and civilian personnel from Western Europe and North America - to be dispatched to oversee the cease-fire on the ground by 20 March, Dirdiery told a press conference in Nairobi on 31 January.

Dirdiery told IRIN that SPLM/A criticism of Sudanese government actions in the Nuba Mountains was linked to the rebel group's "political claims" to the region.

"SPLM/A may be finding it politically unacceptable to see peace in Nuba Mountains before peace in southern Sudan. But we know that although there are no monitors on the ground yet, the international community is monitoring the cease-fire very closely and is sure the agreement is holding," he said.

The 80,000 square-kilometre Nuba Mountains region represented a "transition zone" between northern and southern Sudan, and the region's inhabitants had suffered greatly during the country's 19-year civil conflict, humanitarian sources said.

Peter Clausen, a spokesman at the US embassy in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, said the process of identifying personnel to supervise and monitor the cease-fire was progressing well.

"I understand that there will be an announcement of people to take part in the monitoring process. So we are talking about weeks, not much longer," Clausen told IRIN on Thursday.