Sudan Attacks Garang's Visit to Nuba Region, Says It Will Not Fall for Rebel 'Propaganda'

Additional reporting by Ali Abdul-Rahim, IOL Cairo Correspondent
December 9 (IslamOnline & News Agencies)

Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail Monday, December 9, dismissed the visit to Sudan's Western Nuba Mountains by southern rebel leader John Garang, while Sudan's ambassador to Cairo dubbed those who signed a document authorizing the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) to represent them in talks with the government as "a minority that does not speak for the people".

Ismail dismissed the visit as a "sort of a propaganda" ploy and accused the SPLA of "attempting to stand in the way of the sweeping trend for peace," the official Al-Anbaa daily said, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Garang's tour would not affect "the great change that has happened to the people of the Nuba Mountains who are committed to peace and are opposed to war and will determine how peace will be achieved in their region," Ismail said.

Ismail also said Uganda was making arrangements for a second meeting between Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir and Garang, after an unprecedented first encounter in Kampala in July that supported a blueprint for peace drawn up in Kenya. No date or venue has been agreed upon yet.

In Cairo, meanwhile, the Sudanese Ambassador, Dr. Ahmed Abdul Halim, told IslamOnline Monday that "the Nuba Mountains region's problem has already been settled before Machakos agreement.

"The Nuba Mountains' Deal, with the recognition of all parties, could be an example to be followed by and applied to the South," he added.

Abdul Halim further described the signatories to the so-called 'authorization document' as 'a group of cultured people, not exceeding 300, that could not be compared to other delegations who went to Khartoum to declare them (the signatories) as not representing the Nuba people'.

Regarding the possibility of Nubians resorting to arms to get the government to listen and negotiate with them, the Sudanese Ambassador dismissed the possibility as 'needless'.

"War in the Sudan has lost its justifications since the government declared its willingness to stop fighting and sit on the negotiating table. So, it is now needless to resort to arms against a party willing to listen.

"However, the case is different for the SPLA/M. Since 1989, they have been sitting with us, not to negotiate to achieve peace, but to embarrass the government," Abdul Halim charged.

During a meeting last week in the Nuba Mountain town of Kawda, SPLA spokesman Yasser Arman claimed, the Nuba "agreed to give the SPLM a mandate to represent" their region in a third round of peace talks with the government, set for January in Kenya.

He further claimed that 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 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 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.