Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Sudan parties reach agreement on Southern Kordofan

The Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) in Sudan signed an agreement aiming for a full ceasefire in the northern border state of Southern Kordofan on Tuesday 28th June.
"In South Kordofan there was an agreement on general principles on cessation of hostilities the intention is to arrive to a ceasefire," SPLM minister for cooperation Deng Alor told AFP.

There has been heavy fighting in Southern Kordofan since 5th June between Sudanese government forces and northerners allied with the ruling party in the south, the SPLM.

The deal sets the framework for political and security arrangements in the two border states of Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan and is part of an ongoing mediation effort by the African Union (AU), led by former South African president, Thabo Mbeki.

The framework agreement stipulates that the National Congress Party (NCP), the ruling party in the north, will recognise the northern contingent of the SPLM as a “legal political party in Sudan.” NCP officials have previously said they will not allow the SPLM-North to exist after 9th July, when the South becomes a separate state, as it would mean the SPLM-North was an extension of a foreign party.

Under the agreement, fighters aligned with the SPLM in Southern Kordofan will “be integrated, over a time period and with modalities to be agreed, into the Sudan Armed Forces.”

There were two major catalysts for the current outbreak of violence in Southern Kordofan. The first was the election of NCP candidate Ahmed Haroun as governor of the state, in what the SPLM called a rigged election. Haroun is wanted be the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes in Darfur, which borders Southern Kordofan.

Haroun beat SPLM candidate Abdel-Aziz Al-Hilu, who is also the leader of the Nuba, a non-Arab ethnic group who lives in the region.

The second catalyst was the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) announcement in May that the SPLM-North should disarm by 1st June, or else the SAF would do it by force.

The agreement signed in Addis Ababa on Tuesday will result in the two forces being combined eventually, although the actual mechanisms by which this would occur have not yet been decided.

It did specify that the NCP and SPLM-North would form a joint political committee to ensure that "the issue of governance in Southern Kordofan shall be discussed and resolved amicably…within 30 days.”

The two sides have also agreed to start working on a cease-fire agreement and to allow humanitarian access into the state.

Many people within Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states fought alongside the south in Sudan's decades-long civil war, fighting against repression and marginalisation by Khartoum.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which brought the civil war to an end in 2005, set out the process that will on 9th July lead to the independence of South Sudan (although this was not the aim of the CPA), but very little was promised to the indisputably northern states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile except ill-defined 'popular consultations' on their future constitutional status.

In recent weeks there have been reports of 'ethnic cleansing' by northern troops in Southern Kordofan and Al-Hilu has said that over 3,000 people have been killed or have disappeared due to their ethnicity or political affiliation.

Southerners voted overwhelmingly to split from Sudan in a January independence referendum, but the period since has been marred by violence in a number of border states, including the oil-rich Abyei region, which is claimed by both sides.

South Sudan will become Africa's newest state on 9th July.

The UK's Minister for Africa Henry Bellingham said South Sudan's independence was "incredibly exciting".

"It is an historic moment for Africa and the world, the creation of a new country," he said, speaking from Malabo, which is to host an AU summit later this week.

"But we don't want the great celebrations of this new country to be undermined and marred by what's happening in Abyei and South Kordofan."

Sources: BBC News, Business Recorder, Sudan Tribune

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