March 4, 2014 (KHARTOUM) - The Sudanese government has slammed demands by the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) for negotiations on a new humanitarian deal to cease hostilities and deliver food to affected civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile state.
In a response to a draft framework agreement proposed by the African Union mediation, the SPLM-N called for direct talks on a cessation of hostilities and the modalities of aid delivery on the basis of international humanitarian law.
The rebel group said the previous humanitarian memorandums signed in February and August 2012 failed to address the situation, and blamed Khartoum for refusing direct talks. The SPLM-N said the government prefers that every party sign a separate agreement with the members of the tripartite initiative, comprising of UN agencies, the African Union (AU) and Arab League.
Suleiman Abdel-Rahman Suleiman, the head of the government Humanitarian Aid Commission, said the rebel group denounced the tripartite agreement.
“The SPLM-N demands partial cessation of hostilities to deliver aid only in the rebel controlled areas, while the government proposes a comprehensive cessation of hostilities to reach all the affected civilians,” he said In statements to official news agency SUNA.
Suleiman said that according to the government statistics the number of affected people in South Kordofan is estimated at 70,000 people and 30,000 in Blue Nile.
However, the figures are disputed by the SPLM-N which says 700,000 and 300,000 civilians are affected in the two areas respectively.
The rebel group has estimated that there are some 800,000 civilians displaced or severely affected by conflict in areas under their control in both states.
The Sudanese official added that 90% of affected civilians have been displaced to government-controlled areas or have taken refuge in neighbouring South Sudan and Ethiopia.
According to UN agencies, there are 209,000 Sudanese refugees in South Sudan and a further 33,000 in Ethiopia.
The Sudanese government refused to allow aid groups to reach civilians in rebel-controlled areas when the conflict broke out, saying that rebel combatants would benefit from food delivered.
In order to reassure Khartoum UN agencies proposed including monitors from the African Union and Arab League to control food distribution, as well as the tripartite initiative.
The AU’s chief mediator, Thabo Mbeki, suspended the talks on 2 March, saying “it is impossible to bridge the chasm between the parties and I will therefore refer the matter back to its mandating principal, the AUPSC, for further guidance.”