By Ngor Arol Garang
July 25, 2011 (JUBA)-The newly established government of the Republic of South Sudan (RoSS) on Monday accused the neighboring state in the north of launching an economic war by adopting “hostile and discriminative” policies aiming at crushing its economy.
- SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum holds a press conference in the South Sudanese capital of Juba on July 25, 2011. (Getty)
Speaking at a press conference held at the headquarters of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in Juba, Pagan Amum, the Secretary General of RoSS ruling party, cited the release of a new currency in North Sudan as one of the strategies aimed at stifling the economic growth of the new nation by reneging an agreement he said was reached by the two parties in January to allow the two states to use one currency for the period of six months.
“The release of the new currency by the North violates the agreement we signed in January”, said Amum.
South Sudan was the first of the two states to launch a new currency on July 18, claiming that it was forced to do so as North Sudan stopped supplying it with cash.
Amum said North Sudan’s move would cost South Sudan US$700 million as the cash they are exchanging for the new South Sudan Pound will become valueless.
He described reports and allegations that the North was not aware of the plans by the South to release its own currency as a “white lie”.
"As a matter of fact, this issue was discussed and agreed by the two parties in Addis Ababa in January 2011. It was again discussed and agreed in March that the two states would even share the features of the proposed currency with the North," he explained.
He described action taken by the government in the north as "hostile and unacceptable behaviour".
Rabie Abdel-Aatii, a spokesman of North Sudan’s ruling party said the adoption of the new currency will be gradual and so the people of South Sudan have a chance to change the old currency.
"Our banks now are dealing with the same, the new currency and old currency," Atti said. "I don’t think this is a big problem ... I think it can be resolved technically without trouble for the north or the south."
Last week Sudan’s finance and national economy minister Ali Mahmood Hassanein cautioned on the possibility that part of the old Sudanese pound would be smuggled into Sudan for the purpose of exchanging it with the new currency and stressed that measures will be taken to prevent that.
Hassanein was apparently making reference to what Sudan perceives as attempts by the authorities in South Sudan to undermine their economy.
South Sudan has been resisting demands by Khartoum to hand over the old version of the pound circulated in the South which was estimated to be equivalent to $700 million.
The Central Bank of Sudan (CBoS) said last week that South Sudan wants to replace old currency only through exchanging it with foreign currency or commercial trade between the two countries.
But Hassanein today dismissed the demand saying that South Sudan can keep the old currency "in the museums".
They can keep it the same way they kept the [Sudanese] flag [at South Sudan independence ceremony]" the minister said.
The minister also confirmed reports that he had submitted his resignation from both ministerial portfolios and position of Secretary General of the party, but his decision was rejected by the president and the leadership council.
He explained that he had wanted to “give room to new blood in both the government and the party”, denying allegations that he was pushed to resign from his positions due to differences within the party.
He reported that the chairperson of the Abyei negotiations, former president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, is expected to visit Juba tomorrow on Wednesday to hold consultations with the officials from SPLM and the government of South Sudan on the way forward on the negotiations.
Last Sunday, President Bashir agreed to the resumption of talks between the two countries over the remaining issues.
Speaking about unresolved issues in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the South Sudan government spokesperson told the press Monday that some critical issues are still subject to negotiations with the help of the international mediators.
The two governments have signed the Abyei protocol to resolve the border conflict and both parties should implement that protocol.
Barnaba Marial Benjamin said 80 per cent of border issues have been agreed upon. "We had prepared Blue Nile and South Kordofan protocols, which will help resolve current issues and bring stability in both countries,” he added.
The minister said his government is committed to the concept of soft borders with the North, allowing freedom of movement to pastoral list and it will welcome and help settle Southern Sudanese who wish to return from the North.
South Sudan will recognize all legally acquired property and land ownership. It will also respect the right of people living in territory from diverse ethnic cultural and racial backgrounds as the transitional constitution”, he said.