Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has declared a “two-week unilateral ceasefire” with rebels in the troubled state of South Kordofan, during an unannounced visit to the state's capital of Kadugli.
Bashir’s declaration was described by BBC’s correspondent as catching “his own military - and the rebels they are fighting - by surprise”.
The move follows pressure from both the US and the UN, who are pushing for an independent investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity, as detailed by a UN report.
Bashir did go on to say that not a single foreign agency would be allowed into the region, contradicting an earlier acceptance by his government to allow UN agencies access to South Kordofan.
It comes days after talks between President Bashir and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) failed to reach a solution to end the crisis.
Relations between the US and UN with Sudan have become increasingly strained over the latter's refusal to investigate allegations of war crimes.
The US has kept Sudan on its list of state sponsors of terrorism along with the many sanctions that come with the designation.
Speaking on the motives of the UN, Mahdi Ibrahim, a former Sudanese ambassador to Washington who now chairs the foreign relations committee of Sudan's Parliament said, "out of all these experiences, we feel that this is an open project of continued intervention into Sudan.’Don't allow this country to be stable,' is the very clear message that we see."
These allegations were firmly refuted by US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice who said:
"we have to begin to speculate is the result of the fact that they don't want the international community to be able to validate these horrific reports of everything from mass arrests, to executions, mass graves, and aerial bombardments".
Ibrahim's comments were echoed by Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party vice-chairman, who after talks with the rebels ended stated that they would not be defeated by “agents” working with the rebels.
“Our message to Al-Hilu (SPLM-N spokesperson) and those behind him in Juba, America and Europe (is) that the war that kills innocent people will not last and will be defeated in the upcoming period.”
An earlier agreement between the two sides in June, providing for talks on cessation of hostilities and recognition of the SPLM-N as a political party, fell through as President Bashir overruled the deal signed by his negotiator. He ordered his army to carry on with their operations in South Kordofan.
Violence erupted in South Kordofan after Sudan’s army attempted to disarm the SPLM-N in early June.
See our earlier post: US backs action on UN report on Sudan atrocities (Aug 2011)