Norway welcomes the addendum to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cessation of Hostilities, which was signed Monday 4 February 2003 by the parties to the Sudan conflict. The aim is to reinforce monitoring and control of the temporary ceasefire of 15 October last year.
The addendum is an important confidence-building measure, and should provide a good basis for preventing outbreaks of fighting in violation of the MoU. The IGAD Special Envoy, Lieutenant General Lazaro Sumbeiywo, should be commended for his efforts to achieve an agreement. The parties to the peace negotiations, the SPLM/A and the Government of Sudan, should now be able to proceed with the negotiations with a view to concluding a peace agreement in the near future.
Norway is particularly pleased that the most recent agreement establishes a Verification and Monitoring Team (VMT) and requires the parties to report on the identity and location of military forces. In co-operation with the IGAD negotiators and other observer countries, Norway is considering possible contributions to the VMT. A particularly important point is that the addendum to the MoU also reconfirms that it applies to the militias who have recently been accused of serious abuses against civilians in Western Upper Nile. It is also important that it calls for the restoration of areas that have been seized since the MoU was signed in October. The addendum requires the parties to notify the identity and location of their forces, including militias, to suspend work on the Bentiu-Adok road until a peace agreement has been signed and to cease propaganda and media wars. Norway is also pleased to note that the controversial work on the Bentiu-Adok road in the same area is to be suspended until the parties have signed a final peace agreement.
Another important step was that the parties issued a separate Joint Communiqué stressing their humanitarian obligations. Norway has been deeply engaged in efforts to provide humanitarian aid to the war-affected population of Sudan, and has taken the initiative for informal co-operation between donor countries, UN agencies and the World Bank to make preparations for providing assistance to Sudan once a peace agreement has been concluded.
Notes for editors:
Norway is actively supporting the IGAD peace negotiations on Sudan that are in progress in Kenya and is observer to the peace talks together with United States, United Kingdom, Italy and the African Union.
Norway is co-chair of the IGAD Partners Forum, which provides assistance to the leaders of the negotiations, for example by organising co-operation between the donor countries to support the Sudan peace process.
The peace negotiations on Sudan have been in progress since 17 June 2002. The third round of negotiations will be concluded 6 February. Talks are expected to be resumed 23 February. Until now, the peace talks have resulted in agreement on the Machakos Protocol, which was signed on 20 July 2002. This represented a breakthrough in several issues of central importance in the peace process, especially the question of self-determination for the south and the issue of state and religion. On 15 October, the parties to the conflict, the SPLM/A and the Government of Sudan, reached agreement on a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cessation of Hostilities. This was extended to 31 March 2003 at the conclusion of the second round of negotiations on 18 November 2002. The MoU also included a commitment to unimpeded humanitarian access throughout Sudan.
Since the beginning of the year, the negotiation process has been made more difficult by intense fighting in Western Upper Nile and south Sudan, in which the government-controlled militia has been particularly active. The addendum to the MoU is intended to bring this fighting to a halt by giving the IGAD negotiators a stronger role in verification and monitoring in the event of claims that the ceasefire agreement is being violated. The addendum requires the parties to notify the identity and location of their forces, including militias, to restore areas that have been seized since the MoU was signed in October, to suspend work on the Bentiu-Adok road until a peace agreement has been signed and to cease propaganda and media wars. In a separate Joint Communiqué, the parties have agreed to take all necessary steps to ensure the return of people displaced by fighting since October 2002. The international community has been urged to assist the parties in their efforts.