In Sudan, rebels Wednesday accused Sudanese government soldiers of assassinating an official in a rebel-controlled area. The rebels said the assassination violates a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that both sides had agreed to. But the government denied any role in the death and insisted it is committed to making the cease-fire work.
Sudan's main rebel group, the Southern People's Liberation Army, said the government has assassinated one of its supporters, Judge Augustino El Nur Shimela, who lived in a village in the Nuba mountain area in the south of the country.
A spokesman for the Southern People's Liberation Army who lives in Nairobi, George Garang, said the killing shows the government is not serious about observing a cease-fire recently negotiated by the United States. "What is happening now is that the people in the Nuba Mountains are scared. And I think this is a very dangerous situation which is developing because if the government made a pledge and immediately disobeyed it and violated it, then it has no credibility at all," he said.
Mr. Garang said the assassins were four government soldiers who arrived in the village of Kuma in the evening. He said local people invited them to stay, believing they were defecting to the rebel side. According to Mr. Garang, the soldiers entered the judge's house at 4 a.m., shot him and disappeared.
The Sudanese government denied any role in the killing. Mohamed Dirdiri, the Sudanese charge d'affaires in Nairobi, said his government is abiding by its promise to observe the ceasefire. "We are fully committed to this period of tranquillity. The SPLA is totally incredible. And it is only out to try to destabilize the situation there and to try to also tell the international community that the Sudan government is not going to abide by that agreement. Definitely we are going to do our best to fulfill what we have agreed to," he said.
Last week, special U.S. envoy to Sudan John Danforth visited Sudan and persuaded the warring parties to agree to a four week cease-fire so that relief and humanitarian assistance could be delivered to the Nuba Mountains, 500 kilometers southwest of the capital, Khartoum.
There has long been intense fighting over the Nuba Mountains in a war that pits the Islamic government in the north against Christian and animist rebels in the southern part of the country.
Humanitarian aid officials said the ceasefire is essential if relief agencies are going to be able to deliver badly needed supplies to the people who live in the Nuba Mountains, where food production has been greatly reduced this year because of drought and fighting.