July 23, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Representatives of the Sudanese government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) were due to meet on Monday, 23 July, to discuss the humanitarian crisis in the country’s border regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, the African Union (AU) has announced.
- FILE - SPLM-N sec-gen Yasir Arman
The outgoing chairman of the AU commission, Jean Ping, noted in a press release that government and SPLM-N representatives will meet in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa under the auspices of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki to discuss provision of humanitarian assistance to the conflict-affected population in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Monday’s meeting, if it had taken place as scheduled, would have been the first between the two parties since an agreement they negotiated and signed in Addis Ababa in June last year to address the conflict in the two states was scrapped by Sudan’s President Omer Al-Bashir.
The planned meeting also follows Khartoum’s agreement on 27 June, after months of stalling and concomitant external pressure, to a proposal put forward by the AU, UN and the Arab League on the access to provide humanitarian assistance in the two states. The SPLM-N accepted the proposal when it was first made in February.
The Sudanese government has been blocking humanitarian assistance from reaching SPLM-N controlled areas in the two states since the conflict there first erupted in South Kordofan in June and spread to Blue Nile in early September.
Jean Ping expressed his deep concern over the situation and warned of any further delays to the process.
In response to speculations that the meeting is also going to act as a precursor to political negotiations between the two sides under AUHIP mediation, SPLM-N secretary-general, Yasir Arman, has strongly denied such an intention, stressing that the talks are purely about the humanitarian situation.
Arman pointed out, in an interview with the London-based Al-Sharq al-Awsat on Monday, that the SPLM-N delegation to the talks is composed of the group’s humanitarian officials Philip Niroon, Waleed Hamid, Dr. Ahmad Saeed and Hashim Aurta.
Arman reiterated the SPLM-N’s commitment to resolving the humanitarian crisis in the two states, describing Khartoum’s rejection to opening safe corridors for humanitarian assistance as a “war crime”.
The SPLM-N official asserted that his group will never enter into a bilateral agreement with the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) again.
He also insisted that before starting any political talks, the NCP must reverse all the actions it took against the SPLM-N, including lifting the ban on its activities and re-instating the SPLM-N’s chairman Malik Aggar to his position as the Governor of Blue Nile State.
After President Al-Bashir tore up the 28 June 2011 agreement the SPLM-N formed an alliance - the Sudan Revolutionary Forces (SRF)- with Darfur’s three main rebels groups and has since only been willing to negotiate a holistic solution to the situation in South Kordofan, Darfur and Blue Nile.
Khartoum has rejected the SRF’s approach and is pushing for the SPLM-N to hold separate talks with them as provided in the the UN Security Council’s resolution 2046 passed on May 2.
African mediators believe that the resolution of the humanitarian access issue in South Kordofan and Blue Nile should pave the way for political talks on the basis of last year’s framework agreement.