jan. 19 (AP)
A successful three-year cease-fire agreement between the Sudanese government forces and rebels in Sudan's Nuba Mountains has been renewed for another six months, a senior Western military officer said Wednesday.
The renewal, which goes into effect Thursday, was requested by the Sudanese government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army, Brigadier General Jan Erik Wilhelmsen told a news conference.
Wilhelmsen heads the Joint Monitoring Mission, created three years ago to monitor the Swiss-and U.S.-sponsored cease-fire that was signed Jan. 19, 2002.
He said the truce was holding with no serious violations and suggested it could be applied in other parts of Sudan, particularly since the official ending earlier this month of a 21-year civil war.
The Nuba Mountains was one of the marginalized regions addressed in the Jan. 9 peace agreement signed by the government and the SPLA.
The civil war was calamitous for the Nuba people, squeezed between Arab northerners and southern rebels. More than half of the region's residents fled, but Wilhelmsen said the three-year cease-fire returned life almost to normal and the population doubled from 720,000 to over 1.4 million people.
"This mechanism could be adapted to other places, even in southern Sudan, but of course it is dependent on the security assessment done by those who have the responsibility. It should be a flexible concept for the peace keeping in Sudan in the future," he said.
He said the concept and the lessons derived from the past three years would be submitted to the United Nations for possible use in the southern part of the country.
Wilhelmsen said the reasons behind the success of the mission included establishing close cooperation between the government and the SPLA in the region as well as working closely with the local population.
"It is this trust, hard won, through professionalism and dedication of the honoring teams that is the bedrock on which the JMC success has been built. And the example set by the people of the Nuba Mountains, assisted by the JMC, should not be underestimated," he said.
Under Sudan's newly signed peace agreement, the United Nations will take over from the Joint Military Commission in June when it starts deploying its peace monitors in southern Sudan and the three marginalized areas: Nuba Mountains, the southern Blue Nile and Abyei.
The rebels have to withdraw 30 percent of their troops from northern Sudan and the three marginalized areas within four months and complete the withdrawal in eight months.