Wednesday, 16 March 2011

South Sudan pulls out of talks with North

Thabo Mbeki with South Sudan President Salva Kiir (R)
South Sudan's governing Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) announced on Saturday 12th March that it was suspending all talks with the north's National Congress Party (NCP). Pagan Amum, secretary general of the SPLM made the announcement at a press conference, and accused the north of working to destabilise the emerging independent state of South Sudan.

"The SPLM has decided to suspend the dialogue with the NCP because of its policies and its support of the armed militia in south Sudan," Amum said.

Amum said his government had detailed information of a plan by the NCP to topple to the South Sudan government before it declares independence on 9th July, 2011. He also said there was evidence that the NCP has been supporting various militia groups in the south with the intention of carrying out a genocide in the region.

He added that the NCP was trying to push the Arab Misseriya tribes into confrontation with the South Sudan government and to cripple the Abyei protocol.

Dozens of people have been killed in recent clashes between the SPLA and a rebel militia in South Sudan's Upper Nile State and between the SPLA and the Misseriya in the Abyei area.

The SPLM released confidential documents detailing the NCP's alleged plot to overthrow the southern government by supporting, arming, training and financing militias opposed to the South.

The documents, dating from 2008-2010, include information involving the northern military high command, the army's logistical deparment and intelligence units, as well as the defence ministry, according to the Sudan Tribune.

The NCP has denied the SPLM's accusations, and in a statement issued on Monday 14th March, NCP political secretary Ibrahim Gandoor said that the SPLM was seeking a scapegoat for its problems now that it was being confronted by a large armed opposition.

The NCP issued a further statement on Tuesday 15th Mach denouncing what it called 'fabricated documents' aimed at igniting hatred between the two sides and provoking a return to war.

The international community has responded quickly, appealing to the leaders of South Sudan to resume negotiations on post-referendum arrangements. Thabo Mbeki, the former South African president and chairman of the African Union (AU) High-Level Panel on Sudan told reporters at a press conference in Juba, South Sudan's capital, that he remains optimistic that the two parties will get back to the negotiating table.

Mbeki met with South Sudan's Vice President Riek Machar on Tuesday in Juba to stress the importance of resuming negotiations to prevent any deterioration of the situation.

The Sudan Troika – the US, UK and Norway – issued a joint statemnet on Tuesday, expressing 'serious concern' over the south's decision to freeze talks with the north. The Troika, which played a major role in establishing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, which brought the civil war to an end, said it was 'critical' that talks resumed.

The Troika's statement, posted on the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website, said “we urge President Bashir and President Kiir to take steps against alleged actions that destabilize each other's governments and territories, and to lay the ground for mutual cooperation with the goal of the creation of two viable states in July.”

The statement also reminded both parties of their obligation to permit the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) full access to the Abyei area. The UN Secretary-General's office released a statement on Monday complaining that the mission had been refused access to areas of conflict in Abyei and restricted in its movement.

South Sudan voted in a January referendum to seceded from the North and form a new country. A number of issues remain unresolved between the two countries, including oil revenues, border demarcation and the ownership of the border-straddling Abyei region.

Violence has plagued the border region and the south since the referendum. Renegade Southern army general Gorge Athor's forces attacked Malakal town in the Upper Nile State on Saturday, the latest in a series of bloody clashes. The SPLM accuses the north of funding Athor's militia.

Sources: Sudan Tribune, FCO, Eastday

For more information on Sudan, see the Menas Borders website, here.

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