International monitors call for full peace deal in Sudan's Nuba mountains

Feb 1, 2003 (AFP)

International observers in Sudan's central Nuba mountains on Saturday called for the region's ceasefire to be transformed into a full-fledged peace deal between the government and southern rebels.

"Instead of continuing as an accord for cessation of military operations, the ceasefire agreement should be transformed into a peace agreement," the chief of the observer mission, Brigadier General Jean Wilhelmsen, told a press conference here.

The Norwegian officer heads the Joint Military Commission (JMC), a body that comprises European and US representatives as well as delegates from the government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

Both sides have satisfactorily respected the year-old ceasefire, added Wilhelmsen.

He noted that government representatives and the SPLA had shown "good-will and cordiality" in meetings.

The renewable six-month ceasefire agreement covering the Nuba mountains, an enclave away from the main conflict zone in the south, was first signed by the government and SPLA in Switzerland in January 2002 and then extended in July and again last month.

Wilhelmsen said the JMC delegation had set up local committees to help facilitate contacts between people residing in different areas held by the two warring parties and also to help in de-mining operations.

"An important deed we accomplished was the opening of Kadugle-Kauda road and removing mines from it to facilitate delivery of humanitarian aid," he said.

The de-mining operations are conducted by several international organisations and will be completed within 12 to 18 months, he said.

The JMC also said in a statement that its priorities now included the redeployment of the warring factions to "mutually acceptable final positions."

The statement said the JMC would work for facilitating freedom of movement and the delivery of humanitarian aid to all areas of the Nuba Mountains, home to about 500,000 people. The SPLA claims to control most of the region.

Meanwhile, a third round of negotiations are currently underway in Kenya between the government and the SPLA to finalise a preliminary agreement to end the conflict estimated to have cost 1.5 million lives and displaced four million people since 1983.

Khartoum and the SPLA agreed in principle during a first round of talks in July in Kenya that the mainly animist and Christian south should have a six-year period of self-rule, followed by a referendum on self-determination for the south.