UN Mission takes over peacekeeping role in Sudan's Nuba Mountains

NAIROBI, Jun 21, 2005 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) has taken over operations from the multinational force monitoring a ceasefire agreement between the Sudanese government and rebels in the Nuba Mountains region, the UN said Tuesday.

In a statement issued here, UNMIS said Sudan's Joint Military Commission (JMC) on Monday officially handed over the duties it has been undertaking for the past three years to the UN Mission, in accordance with a comprehensive peace agreement reached in January between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), which ended Africa's longest civil war.

The UN said in the statement that its envoy to Sudan, Jan Pronk, and UN force commander Fazle Elaki Akbar attended a handover ceremony in Tillo.

UNMIS will eventually deploy some 10,000 UN Security Council- mandated troops and 700 civilian police to monitor the peace agreement, maintain stability in southern Sudan and ensure the safe return home of millions of internally displaced persons.

In his speech during the handover ceremony, Jan Pronk commended the JMC for their professionalism and their outstanding performance.

He praised JMC for the full cooperation it extended to UN mission.

Pronk pledged that UNMIS will 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 Nuba Mountains expect and that's what we promise to deliver," he said.

The 1983-2005 civil war was calamitous for the people of the Nuba Mountains in south-central Sudan.

Squeezed between the pro-government northerners and the pro- rebel southerners, more than half of the local population fled. But during the past three years of ceasefire, life has returned almost to normal and the population doubled from 720,000 people to more than 1.4 million.