Sudan's ceasefire observed, but government and rebels trade accusations

Jan 26 (AFP)

The US-brokered ceasefire for Sudan's central Nuba Mountains, which came into effect on Tuesday, appears to be holding, although both government and rebels have traded claims of attacks made before then, a Sudanese newspaper said Saturday.

The truce aimed at allowing humanitarian supplies to reach the Nuba Mountains, was hammered out between Khartoum and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in talks in Switzerland a week ago, and went into effect within 72 hours.

It is renewable on a six-month basis.

Sudanese Foreign Under Secretary Mutref Siddeiq said that no violation of the ceasefire had occurred, while accusing Sudan's rebels of attacking government-held Rafu near rebel-controlled Telshe in the Nuba region hours before the truce was implemeted, the independent newspaper al-Sahafi Al-Dawle reported Saturday.

Dr. Siddeiq, who led the government delegation to the Switzerland talks, was apparantly responding to a statement made by SPLA spokesman Samson Kwaje in Nairobi accusing government troops of attacking the Telshe locality.

Kwaje said his men repulsed government troops in a fierce battle in which he claimed six government troops were killed and an unspecified number of others were wounded. Two SPLA men were killed and four others injured in the clash, he said.

The newspaper, meanwhile, quoted Majzoub Yousuf Babiker, governor of South Kordofan State, home of the Nubian tribesmen, as saying the situation in his state "is stable and calm".

Babiker said the government and inhabitants of the state began preparations for peace after the war that "has destroyed the public services institutions and stopped the development."

The Nuba mountains is only part of a huge area of Sudan hit by a civil war which has pitted successive Arab and Muslim governments in Khartoum against the SPLA -- mainly composed of animists and Christians from the south -- since 1983.