UN assumes peace duties in Sudan's Nuba Mountains

June 21 (AFP)

The UN Mission in Sudan has assumed the duty of maintaining peace in central Sudan's Nuba Mountains in line with a peace deal the government and southern rebels signed in January, UNMIS said Tuesday.

UNMIS took over from the Joint Military Commission, an international body established in 2002 to monitor a truce between Khartoum and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the region.

The JMC handed over its operations to UNMIS during a brief ceremony held on Monday at JMC headquarters in Tillo, which was attended by Jan Pronk, the UN special representative for Sudan, UNMIS said.

"This arrangement was meant to ensure the smooth takeover of the JMC sector of operations by UNMIS and to avoid any monitoring vacuum in the area," a statement said.

Khartoum and the SPLM signed a peace agreement on January 9 in Nairobi, which put an end to more than two decades of north-south conflict that left more than 1.5 million people dead.

During the war, the southern rebels made several forays and captured territory in the southeastern Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains regions.

A truce was brokered by the Swiss and US governments in 2002 in the Nuba Mountains, a region covering South Kordofan and parts of West Kordofan states.

International military observers were deployed in the form of the JMC and its executive organ, the International Monitoring Unit (IMU) to monitor the truce.

In a speech at the ceremony, Pronk praised the JMC for its "professionalism" and "outstanding performance" and the "full cooperation it extended to UNMIS."

He promised that UNMIS would "do its utmost to live up to the legacy that JMC will be leaving behind and to build on it. That's what the people in the Nuba Mountains expect and that's what we promise to deliver."

The UN Security Council in March approved the deployment of 10,000-strong UN force to shore up the January peace deal.