Access to Nuba Mountains "conditional"

13 February, 2001 (IRIN)

Humanitarian access is being denied to civilians in areas of Nuba Mountains controlled by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), an organisation for the Nuba Mountains said on Tuesday. A statement released by the Nuba Relief Rehabilitation and Development Organisation said the government had continued a war against civilians in the Nuba Mountains.

"Despite a limited number of visits by the UN in 2000, the government of Sudan (GoS) has finally refused to concede access to the SPLM areas while appealing for an increase in humanitarian assistance in the GoS controlled areas," the statement said. It said civilians had been killed and displaced, as well as being abducted, and used as forced labour by the military.

"Because of recent poor harvest, the region is reporting no surplus areas and because of widespread insecurity, there is minimal to no access to grain markets... host communities are unable to support the recently displaced," the statement said.

Humanitarian sources told IRIN that UN access to Nuba was "a continual problem" despite the fact the UN was given the go-ahead to carry out assessments in 1999. Humanitarian agencies have been told by the government that all access must go through government-controlled areas, which is not acceptable to the SPLM, said the source.

Conditions for Nuba Mountains differ from humanitarian access to southern Sudan, which comes under the negotiated UN Operation Lifeline Sudan. Non-governmental organisations involved in the region are "very concerned about Nuba Mountains", said one humanitarian source. A government military offensive picked up in December and moved into Western Kadugli County, Nuba Mountains, said one humanitarian worker with experience in the area. "What we see is the government attacking farms and homes and forcing people to come to the government-controlled areas", said the source.