Euro envoys call for Nuba confidence-building

European envoys in Sudan on Monday called for the creation of confidence-building measures in the Nuba Mountains to capitalise on the current, localised cease-fire in the region.

"EU Heads of Mission agreed that there was an urgent need for confidence-building measures, such as direct talks between political leaders and contacts at grassroot levels," the envoys said in a statement released by the German embassy in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, on 18 February.

An agreement to implement a cease-fire in the Nuba Mountains region of Southern Kordofan, south-central Sudan, was signed by representatives of the Sudanese government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in Burgenstock, Switzerland, on 19 January, and came into force 72 hours later.

Broad humanitarian access to the Nuba Mountains was one of four confidence-building measures proposed by US peace envoy John Danforth during a visit to Sudan in November. The other three concerned: a cessation of bombing and artillery attacks on civilians; an undertaking to end slavery; and, the creation of zones and times of tranquility (throughout Sudan) in which humanitarian assistance could be offered to vulnerable populations.

The Nuba cease-fire agreement, set to run for an initial period of six months, is due to be supervised by a Joint Military Commission (JMC) and an International Monitoring Unit (IMU), the latter comprising 10 to 15 military and civilian personnel from Western Europe and North America.

Although neither the JMC nor the IMU have yet been deployed, the EU Heads of Missions said that Nuba the cease-fire had "so far, on the whole, been respected by both sides."

They added that support should now be focused on "moving the cease-fire into a comprehensive and sustainable peace with [community] ownership."

During their visit to both government-held and rebel-controlled areas of the Nuba Mountains on 14 and 15 February, EU Heads of Missions in Sudan held talks with the Governor of Southern Kordofan State, Majzub Yousif Babiker, with tribal leaders in the town of Kadugli, and with a senior commander of the SPLA, the statement said.

The EU Heads of Missions called for a rapid response from the international community to "cope with the urgent needs of the most vulnerable parts of the population" in the region.

This, they said, should include delivery of food aid, tools and seeds, water pumps and medicine, as well as the deployment of the JMC to "preserve the positive development following the signing of the Cease-Fire Agreement for the Nuba Mountains."