June 29, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) on Wednesday announced that they reached what it described as a "partial agreement" for the creation of a 20 kilometer demilitarised zone on the North-South borders monitored by civilians with checkpoints manned by Ethiopian peacekeepers.
- FILE - Sudanese presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie (Reuters)
The Sudanese presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie made the announcement to reporters upon his return from Addis Ababa where he led the NCP delegation in negotiations with the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) mediated by an African Union (AU) panel headed by former South African president Thabo Mbeki.
"We agreed on a buffer zone on the borders between North and South [that is] ten kilometers wide to the south and the north under the control of a civilian group and limited checkpoints [guarded] by Ethiopian troops" Nafie said.
Wednesday’s agreement is the latest in a series of accords brokered by the AU relating to flashpoints including Abyei and South Kordofan.
The Abyei accord signed this month provided for the withdrawal of Northern and Southern forces from the contested region and deployment of a 4,200-strong Ethiopian peacekeeping force that was authorized by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Monday.
The UN force would monitor the withdrawal of northern troops which seized the oil-producing district last May in retaliation for an ambush blamed on SPLA units.
Yesterday the NCP and SPLM-North signed a framework agreement that sets the groundwork for political and security arrangements in the two border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
Fighting broke out between the Northern military and fighters associated with the SPLM in Southern Kordofan on June 5, stoking tensions ahead of the split.
Nafie sought to downplay the mandate of the Ethiopian peacekeepers in Abyei that was made under Chapter VII by the UNSC.
"There are murmurs and a misunderstandings about the issue being Chapter VII or any other agreed tasks for the Ethiopian troops with the consent of the parties is that these forces will maintain security, peace, protection of civilians and prevent the entry of any other forces," the NCP official said.
"We do not care whether [its under] the seventh or sixth chapter," before underscoring the government’s keenness to impose stability and peace in Abyei.
On the issue of SPLM-North being able to operate after the South secedes, Nafie said that the Southern affiliated sector has the right to register as a political party in accordance with the constitution and need not take permission from the NCP.
Nafie stressed that both sides have yet to reach an agreement on cessation of hostilities in South Kordofan, but noted that a joint military commission from NCP and SPLM will meet next week in Addis Ababa along with a political committee that will discuss the political arrangements.
The presidential assistant revealed that the NCP and SPLM agreed to give Southerners in the North and Northerners in the South a period of nine months to seek necessary permits to stay and work or depart. He did not say however what criteria would be used to determine eligibility for residency.
He further said that there are still roadblocks preventing an accord on post-referendum arrangements relating to economic aspects as well as border demarcation. Nafie added that these items could be negotiated after the official independence of South Sudan on July 9.
Southerners chose to separate from the North in a January referendum, the climax of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war in Sudan, which killed some two million people and destabilised much of the region.
After a peaceful referendum and the North’s endorsement of the result, the slow division of Africa’s largest country has turned tense in its final stages, including a military standoff in parts of the ill-defined border regions.