INTERVIEW-Sudan's Nuba ceasefire needs $6.5 mln to survive
By Caroline Drees
June 25 (Reuters)
International donors must provide a swift $6.5 million to ensure a landmark ceasefire deal in Sudan's war-ravaged Nuba Mountains doesn't crumble, the head of an international monitoring mission said on Tuesday.
Norwegian Brigadier-General Jan Erik Wilhelmsen said the government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) were serious about preserving the U.S.-proposed ceasefire, which brought peace to the war-torn area for the first time in 20 years.
The Sudanese government has already backed an extension of the ceasefire, which was forged for an initial six months in January and is up for renewal next month. Wilhelmsen said he hoped the SPLA would follow suit within days.
But he said the international community would have to bear the financial cost of ensuring the truce in the north African country lasts.
"In the first mandate period from January 19 to July 18, we budgeted $15 million and we've only spent $5 million. The U.S. was the main sponsor, but also Norway and Switzerland," Wilhelmsen said.
He said other donors had paid only 30 percent of their planned initial contribution by mid-June, partly due to "technical problems" with the transfer of some contributions.
"This is risking jeopardising the operation" in Africa's largest country, he said.
When the monitoring mission was initially announced, the United States had pledged $5 million, while Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Norway and Switzerland were expected to contribute $10 million. The observers are composed of 30 foreigners and 15 members each from the government and SPLA.
Wilhelmsen said he had given a $6.5 million budget for the next six months to donors, and hoped the funds would be ready in time to ensure the seamless continuation of his team's work.
ROAD MAP FOR PEACE
Since 1983, rebels from the mainly Christian or animist south have fought for greater autonomy from Islamic governments in the north. The conflict is complicated by issues such as oil, tribal affiliation and race and has cost some two million lives.
Diplomats say the Nuba Mountains ceasefire -- one of four "tests" proposed by U.S. special envoy John Danforth to assess the parties' seriousness about peace -- is a valuable experiment which could provide a road map for peace in the rest of Sudan.
Like many other contested areas, the Nuba Mountains has to wrangle with issues like displacement, poverty, landmines and the strategic interest of oil. A stretch of Sudan's only oil pipeline runs through the Nuba Mountains area -- which is roughly twice the size of Denmark.
But the diplomats caution that the ceasefire has to go hand-in-hand with a political process which gives southerners a greater voice while ensuring stability for the north.
In the first six months, the monitors' tasks included ensuring the disengagement of more than 15,000 troops, the free movement of civilians and humanitarian assistance.
Despite about 12 reports of violations on both sides and concerns of escalating fighting outside the monitors' area of responsibility, Wilhelmsen said the ceasefire was a success and beacon of hope for Sudan.
"The people long for this to be more than a limited ceasefire. They are fed up with the fighting," he said.