People of Sudan's Nuba Mountains also want self-rule: southern rebels

December 5, 2002 (AFP)

Sudan's southern rebel movement said Thursday that the people of the central Nuba Mountains also want six years of self-rule, as has been agreed for the south of the country.

Around 300 "representatives" of the region agreed during a conference to give his group a mandate to negotiate on their behalf with Khartoum, Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) spokesman Yasser Arman told AFP.

The four-day meeting was held in the Nuba Mountain town of Kawda, Arman said, speaking on the telephone from the area. It opened in the presence of SPLA/M leader John Garang, who left the meeting on Wednesday.

"They have agreed to give the SPLM a mandate to represent the Nuba Mountains" in a third round of peace talks with the government, set for January in Kenya, Arman said.

He said the Nuba Mountains representatives wanted their region to have a six-year period of self-rule under SPLA/M administration, after which it "would have the right to self-determination."

The Khartoum government and SPLA/M agreed during a first round of talks, held in July in Kenya, on a similar deal for the mainly Christian and animist southern Sudan.

Their preliminary accord provides for a referendum to be held at the end of the six-year period of self-rule in southern Sudan to determine whether the region wanted to secede or stay united with the Muslim north.

Two decades of civil war in Sudan have claimed an estimated 1.5 million lives and displaced around four million people.

The Nuba Mountains are an enclave away from the main war zone in the south, and a landmark ceasefire deal was concluded in the region, home to some half a million people, last January.

SPLA/M says it controls most of the Nuba region.