Khartoum and rebels renew ceasefire accord for central Sudan

July 5 (AFP)

The Khartoum government and rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) have decided to renew a regional ceasefire due to end in mid-July, the mission charged with monitoring the agreement said Friday.

"The government of the Sudan and the SPLA have agreed on an extension of the ceasefire agreement in (central Sudan's) Nuba mountains for a second six-month period," the multinational Joint Monitoring Mission (JMM) said in a statement received in Cairo.

According to the text, Khartoum gave the green light to renew the accord on June 15, while the SPLA forwarded its agreement on July 4. The first mandate was scheduled to end in July 19.

According to the statement, hostilities in the area have ceased since the signing of the agreement, with the exception of a few minor violations.

"For the population of the Nuba Mountains, the implementation of the ceasefire has generated a swift normalization of daily life, the opening of local markets, a reactivation of economic activity, the lifting of travel restrictions, access to humanitarian aid and increased security for life and goods," the statement said.

The JMM proposed to focus in the coming six months on strengthening the civilian police, applying measures to control the possession of arms, and facilitating humanitarian activities in the region.

The government signed the truce deal with the SPLA following US-brokered negotiations in Switzerland. It is renewable on a six-month basis.

It recommended the creation of the JMM, bringing together military and civilian staff from countries including the United States, Britain, Norway, France, and Germany.

The ceasefire in the Nuba mountains, population around 500,000, is seen as a test case for efforts to end the 19-year-old civil war in Sudan pitting successive Arab and Muslim governments in Khartoum against mainly Christian and animist southern rebels.