Friday, 27 May 2011

North threatens to withhold recognition of South Sudan over border issues

Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) considerably upped the tension in the country on Thursday, 26th May, when it announced that it would not recognise the independence of South Sudan in July unless the new state's borders were demarcated.

The head of the NCP's political mobilisation bureau Al-Haj Magid Siwar said “How can we approve and recognise a state separate from us that we don't know where their borders begin or end?”

There are currently six problematic border points, as well the border region of Abyei, which is claimed by both sides. Both sides blame the other for delays in demarcation efforts.

South Sudan voted overwhelmingly to split from the north in a January independence referendum, which was part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which ended the decades-long civil war.

Abyei was due to have its own referendum in January to decide whether to join the north or the south, but the vote was postponed indefinitely due to disagreements over voter eligibility.

Tensions have been high in Abyei since and clashes between the Juba-supported Dinka Ngok, permanent residents of the region, and the Arab, nomadic Misseriya tribes, supported by Khartoum, have resulted in dozens of deaths.

On 22nd May, northern Sudanese forces took over Abyei in retaliation for attacks on their troops in the area by troops from the southern Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

Speaking on Tuesday 24th May, Sudan's President Omar Al-Bashir said he would not withdraw his troops from the region and stressed that Abyei belongs to the north.

"Abyei is Sudanese land, Northern land [and] we will not withdraw from it,” he was quoted in the Sudan Tribune as saying.

Al-Bashir also announced that he had given northern troops the 'green light' to attack southern forces if provoked.

Despite this, South Sudan's President Salva Kiir said the south remained committed to the CPA.

“South Sudan will not go back to war. It will never happen under my leadership,” he said at a press conference in Juba on Thursday, 26th May.

“The Government of South Sudan remains committed to peace. But let some people not interpret this as acts of cowardice,” he said.

“We are not new to this kind of provocation from the NCP. Their invasion of Abyei should not be viewed as an isolated incident, but part of their plan to cause havoc in the region ahead of independence,” he argued.

Experts fear the continued dispute over Abyei could return the country to civil war.

Sources: AP, BBC News, Sudan Tribune, Sudan Vision

For more information, please see the Menas Borders website, here.

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