Switzerland will not send military observers to Sudan

Swiss Radio International's
February 23, 2002

Switzerland is not sending military observers to Sudan to monitor the cease-fire between the Sudanese government and rebels.

Oswald Sigg, spokesman for the defence ministry, told the Swiss daily newspaper "TagesAnzeiger" such a mission would be impossible without a mandate from the United Nations (UN) or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Last month Switzerland hosted US-mediated talks between the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and Sudanese officials in an effort to broker a cease-fire in the Nuba mountains in the southwest of the country.

According to information obtained by the TagesAnzeiger, the United States as well as Sudan's warring parties would have welcomed Switzerland's role as an observer.

However, the defence minister, Samuel Schmid, told the Swiss cabinet on Friday that the new military law, which was revised in June last year, would not permit sending troops to Sudan.

An additional clause allowing such a mission with the sole agreement of the parties involved was discussed, however, rejected by parliament.

Civil War

Sudan's civil war has been raging for 18 years and is the longest running conflict on the African continent.

The southern part of the country, which comprises an animist and Christian population, has been fighting against the Muslim-dominated north in an effort to gain more autonomy and possibly independence.

More than two million people are estimated to have died in combat and famines induced by fighting.

The Sudanese president, Umar Al-Bashir and the SPLA agreed to hold a referendum on the self-determination of southern Sudan.

However, the rebel group want other areas included, such as the southwestern Nuba mountains, a plan that has been rejected by the government.