The Sudanese government and Sudan Peoples Liberation Army/ Movement (SPLA/M) have renewed the Burgenstock Ceasefire Agreement a few weeks ago. This second renewal is to continue for another six months and will expire in July 19, 2003. The Ceasefire was brokered by Senator Danforth, the US Special Peace Envoy for Sudan, who had chosen the Nuba Mountains to be a ‘test case’ for peace building confidence between the two sides. The agreement has brought some security to the region and the bombing of civilians has also stopped.
In other words hostilities have reduced to a low level in the region and this is due to the presence of an international Joint Military Commission (JMC) which was established immediately after the signing of the agreement in Burgenstock. There are now more than five monitoring units situated at different parts of the Nuba Mountains and have it’s headquarters in Umm-Sirdiba. This second renewal of the Accord means a lot to the Nuba, particularly at this critical period. The significance of this agreement has already been stated by Jan Erik Wilhelmsen, chairman of the international Joint Military Commission (JMC), who said, "This is indeed a great moment for all the people of the Nuba Mountains... The Nuba people have for years been in the front line of the war and without adequate humanitarian support."
This was well documented in the UN Humanitarian Assessment Mission reports in July and November 1999 which recommended immediate humanitarian intervention: "The conflict has resulted in widespread population displacement, serious reductions in agricultural and livestock production, lack of income generation activities and severe restriction of access for the provision assistance." The situation prompted the Office of UN Resident Coordinator in Khartoum to set up a Nuba Mountains Assistance and Rehabilitation Programme (NMARP) to tackle these humanitarian problems and it proposed the following:
1. The cross -cutting nature of various sectoral activities that were identified;
2. The necessity to promote a comprehensive transition from immediate humanitarian needs to medium-term rehabilitation needs;
3. The need to maximize the impacts of all international interventions through coordination of planning and operations;
4. The benefits that would be derived from a consolidated interaction by all international players with all national stakeholders on the sides of the political divide, including the joint negotiation for access to programme areas for all concerned parties facilitated through the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator;
5. The advantages that would be accrued through establishing a Field Support Unit that would provide select services on behalf of all participating institutions in the region;
6. The express concurrence of both GOS and SPLM/A authorities that they prefer that a single regional programme be implemented; and
7. That a number of donors would view such collective programming framework as an innovative approach to addressing the transition from relief to rehabilitation and eventual recovery.
The main objective of NMARP is to address humanitarian needs in both Government and SPLM/A controlled areas. However, had such constructive proposals been fully implemented during the cease-fire agreement period (which is now one year old) the situation in the Nuba Mountains would have been different by now. People want to see constructive rehabilitation, rebuilding of most destroyed infrastructures as well as development taking place beside security. The Nuba cease-fire agreement has paved the way for the current peace talks in Machakos, which brought the signing of Machakos Protocol last July. The Accord is a golden opportunity for peace in the Nuba Mountains and this should not be missed. Nuba appeal to the international community to transform this Accord into a real peace in the Nuba Mountains. People ask this question. What will be the situation of the Nuba if peace settlement is reached in Machakos between the Government and SPLA without the Nuba and others?
There is a dire need for peace in the region. We believe if there is a commitment to peace by the Parties, the Nuba conflict will be resolved. Nuba need to see development taking place in the region like in other parts of the country. They need to see road, education, health infrastructures being carried out to ease the suffering of people. Constructive programmes for rehabilitation, resettlement and health care is what people needed. Furthermore Nuba living in the outskirts of Khartoum and other big cities in the northern Sudan need to be assisted to return to their homeland. We believe that the agreement has a provision for resettlement of these people.
The Nuba political future needs to be addressed at Machakos and This is what the majority of Nuba people want, because it is the most suitable forum for resolving the Nuba issue as well as of the issue other marginalised areas.
Nuba want fairness and justice. While Nuba had welcomed senator Danforth initiative wholeheartedly earlier they expected that any solution to Sudan’s conflict must take on board the Nuba question. Because a workable peace cannot be built on injustice.