Monitoring mission suspends patrols in western Nuba Mts

27 August 2003 (IRIN)

The international monitoring mission in the Nuba Mountains has suspended patrols and flight inspections in the western Julud area after the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) withdrew its monitors from the team.

According to a statement from the Joint Monitoring Mission/Joint Military Commission (JMM/JMC) which is overseeing a ceasefire agreement in the Nuba Mountains area, the SPLM recently arrested eight people for entering Julud which is under rebel control.

The rebels are reportedly unhappy over a later decision by the local JMC commander to have the detainees escorted back to their villages.

JMM/JMC spokesman Anton Kohler told IRIN an investigation into the arrests was underway which would, among other issues, determine exactly who the detainees were.

He noted that any party was within its rights to suspend participation in the patrols if it was not satisfied. The patrols throughout the JMC's five sectors in the Nuba Mountains are made up equally of SPLM, Sudanese
government and international representatives.

Without the SPLM, the patrols could not be neutral, the mission pointed out.

The JMC headquarters in Julud would act as a liaison office with the SPLM until the situation was resolved, Kohler told IRIN. It is currently staffed by international monitors as no government or SPLM representatives are in the compound.

"The main effect is that we cannot inspect incoming humanitarian flights in Julud," Kohler noted. He said flights were landing at Karkar airfield - where they could be inspected - from where aid was being shuttled to Julud.

The JMM/JMC press statement acknowledged there had been some tension in the western Nuba Mountains area in recent weeks.

The JMM/JMC was established as part of a ceasefire agreement in the Nuba Mountains between the government and rebels, signed in Switzerland in January 2002. It seeks to monitor and report on compliance with the accord.