May 4, 2012 (JUBA) – The Republic of South Sudan has adopted its official map for the first time since it became independence in July 2011 including various areas, including Heglig/Panthou, that are also claimed by Sudan.
- New official map of the Republic of South Sudan in front of the Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar Teny, Juba, May 4, 2012 (ST)
The map includes territories which officials of South Sudan said were claimed and illegally annexed to Sudan by successive Khartoum regimes.
In a Council of Ministers meeting on Friday chaired by the Vice President, Riek Machar Teny, the cabinet approved the official map of the new state after thorough deliberations.
The Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Service, Madut Biar Yel, told the press after the cabinet meeting that six areas that were contested and occupied by Khartoum including Heglig/Panthou were included as part of South Sudan as per the new map presented to the cabinet by the Vice President.
Heglig was the scene of heavy fighting between the South Sudanese army (SPLA) and the Sudan Armed Forces in April. The SPLA occupied the oil-rich region for ten days but withdrew - it claims - due to international pressure. Khartoum, however, say SAF forced the SPLA out of the area, which has produced around half of their 115,000 barrels per day of crude since South Sudan seceded taking with it 75% of production.
Juba claims that the area was annexed by Khartoum after oil was discovered there in 1970s.
The areas disputed by Khartoum are located in the four bordering states of Upper Nile, Unity, Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Western Bahr el Ghazal states.
Khartoum has a different rival map which has also incorporated the same disputed territories.
Madut accused Khartoum of occupying territories which historically belong to South Sudan and claiming them because they have resources.
The two countries have not demarcated the nearly 1,800 kilometre border during the six year peace process (2005-2011) and post-independence negotiations have made little progress on the issue.
South Sudan wants the issue of all border demarcation to be referred to arbitration. Khartoum has resisted this but its ambassador to the UK said on Tuesday that is was happy to go for arbitration over Heglig and other border areas.
However, when questioned on this apparent new development he told Sudan Tribune that this would be conditional on security issues being resolved including the SPLA admitting that it backs its former comrades the SPLA-North, which have been fighting the government in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
The implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was incomplete in these areas, meaning that the SPLA-N refused to disarm or move south of the border when South Sudan seceded.
South Sudan has been urged by the international community not to interfere in the two areas, which were given special status under the CPA, although Juba denies this.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon described South Sudan’s brief occupation of Heglig - triggered, Juba says, by repeated bombing and ground attacks - as "illegal".
However British historian Douglas H. Johnson, who has worked extensively on border issues, including as part of the Abyei Border Commission (ABC), established by the CPA, said in a short note on published on 4 May that declaring Heglig/Panthou as part of Sudan is “premature at best and prejudicial to a final resolution at worst.” He also recommended that the issues be resolved through arbitration.
Madut further explained that South Sudan has not demarcated its borders with its other neighbouring countries Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, DR Congo and Central African Republic.
However, he expressed hope that, unlike the present border conflict with Sudan, these borders will be demarcated amicably.