Khartoum says Nuba ceasefire a step towards peace with rebels

Jan 19, 2002 (AFP)

The ceasefire agreement reached Saturday between the Sudanese government and the southern rebels for Nuba Mountain region is a step towards "creating an atmosphere conducive" to ending the country's nearly two-decades-old civil war.

"It is a step towards normalising life and facilitating relief and rehabilitation operations in the Nuba Mountains and creating an atmosphere conducive to reaching peace," Presidential Peace Adviser Ghazi Salah Eddin Atabani was quoted as saying by the Omdurman state radio.

The truce between Khartoum and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) was hammered out in talks in Buergenstock, Switzerland, and is renewable after six months, said a joint statement by the Swiss and US governments.

Atabani said the agreement provides for halting "all kinds of hostilities in 72 hours from the moment of signing the agreement."

It provides for establishing a monitoring mechanism made up of representatives of the two parties in addition to a third party, which will either be a country or a group of persons, acceptable to both sides "with the only duty of monitoring commitment to the ceasefire," Atabani said.

He added that the agreement, which he said was witnessed by the host country Switzerland and the United States, provides for freedom of movement of people, maintenance and opening of roads and removal of landmines.

"We pray to God that it will herald a lasting peace," said Atabani of the agreement which he hoped "will silence the voice of the war advocates."

Cairo-based SPLA spokesman Yasser Arman also welcomed the agreement as a first, tentative step towards ending the civil war.

The Nuba region is part of a huge area of southern Sudan that has been ravaged by civil war since 1983, and is crossed by a pipeline which is regarded as essential for Sudanese oil exports.

Since 1983 successive Arab and Muslim governments in Khartoum have been fighting the SPLA, mainly composed of animists and Christians from the south. Northern groups also took up arms against Khartoum in 1995.