Sudan

Sudan: Government accused of violating ceasefire agreement

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NAIROBI, 7 March (IRIN) - The Brussels-based think tank International Crisis Group (ICG) has accused the Sudanese government of violating a key agreement on the cessation of hostilities, signed with the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLM/A) last October.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the ICG said government forces and government-sponsored militias had continued to attack oilfields in Western Upper Nile in an effort to dislodge the SPLM/A and continue to expand oil industry development in the disputed region.

The primary victims of the violence were civilians, the statement said.

"The international community must immediately condemn the continuing violation of the cessation of hostilities by the government of Sudan," said John Prendergast of the ICG. "The parties must be held accountable for agreements signed in the context of the peace process. Otherwise, neither the government, the SPLM/A, nor the Sudanese people can be expected to take the process seriously."

The statement cited four attacks in the Western Upper Nile region that took place between 13 February and 22 February this year. The statement also cited similar attacks in December and January.

The December and January attacks were documented by the US-backed Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT) which was established under the framework of the peace process to monitor attacks on civilians.

In its February report, the CPMT said there had been an increased government military build-up in the region and the forced conscription of a large number of local Nuer and Dinka boys and men in the region, Khartoum and elsewhere.

"Many thousands of civilians have been forcibly displaced from their villages by direct military attack in the [Western Upper Nile] areas of Lara, Tam, Nhialdou, Leel and the villages south of Mankien and Mayom," the CPMT report stated.

In the October accord, the sides agreed to observe a countrywide ceasefire to create the right environment for ongoing peace talks in Kenya. The parties reaffirmed the agreement with an addendum, signed on 4 February, outlining measures to ensure the protection of civilians in the affected areas.

ICG said the fighting "does not immediately threaten the peace talks".

But, it warned: "If this grave breach of signed agreements is not challenged by the international community, however, it will set a precedent that the parties have no reason to take other parts of the peace process seriously, including any final agreement and accompanying international guarantees that may be reached."

[Full statement available at: http://www.intl-crisis-group.org/projects/showreport.cfm?reportid=914 ]

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