September 27, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The signing on Thursday of nine agreements between Sudan and South Sudan over a host of post-secession issues, including border security and oil, has generated positive reactions both domestically and abroad, notwithstanding the failure to reach a deal on the hotly contested region of Abyei.
- President Omer Al-Bashir, left, and President Salva Kiir, right, gesture after the signing ceremony of a deal on economic and security agreements on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012 in Addis Ababa (AP)
Sudan President Omer Al-Bashir and his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir Mayardit inked a cooperation agreement committing their countries to the implementation of eight other agreements signed in a ceremony held at a five-star hotel in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, which has been hosting their marathon talks since Sunday, 22 September; one day after the countries missed a UN deadline for the conclusion of negotiations.
Defence ministers of both countries, John Kong Nyuon of South Sudan and his counterpart Abdel Rahim Mohammed Hussain, preceded the two presidents by signing an agreement on security arrangements which will pave the way for the establishment of a demilitarized buffer zone with a depth of 10 kilometers along the unmarked 1,800-km common border.
Beside the security arrangements agreement, the other seven deals include the following:
- an Agreement on Banking, which aims to enhance cooperation in the management of monetary policy,
- an Agreement on Border Issues, which deals with the demarcation of common borders,
- an Agreement on Post-Service Benefits, which addresses the situation of workers who served on both sides of the borders before secession,
- an Agreement on Trade, which mainly deals with regulation of trade,
- an Agreement on Certain Economic Matters, which deals with assets, liabilities and debt,
- an Agreement on Oil, which deals with the management of oil resources and exportation,
- and an Agreement of Nationals, which grants citizens of both countries the four freedoms of movement, ownership, work and residence in the other country.
Following the signing, Al-Bashir and Salva Kiir shook hands to a cheering crowd of their delegations and addressed the ceremony.
Al-Bashir said that Sudan is committed to implementing the agreements signed and promised to “open a new page” in the relations between Khartoum and Juba in order to enhance the deep ties between the people of the two countries.
He further declared his commitment to opening the borders between the two countries and facilitating cross-border trade and movement of citizens “but in accordance with the international law”.
The Sudanese leader hailed the agreements as a role model of the ability of Sudanese and Africans to resolve differences through dialogue and described Kiir as “a partner in peace”.
He also praised Ethiopia’s hosting of the talks and efforts of the mediation team of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP).
For his part, Salva Kiir described the signing as “a great day in history of the region", saying it ended a long conflict between the two countries.
Kiir however did little to disguise his frustration at the absence of a deal on Abyei, blaming Khartoum’s rejection of an AUHIP proposal for holding a referendum in the oil-producing region.
Sudan and South Sudan agree on the principle that Abyei’s status should be determined via a referendum but they disagree on the issue of who can vote, with Juba persisting that only the area’s indigenous population of Dinka Ngok should be allowed to vote and Khartoum saying that the Arab nomadic tribe of al Messriyah, who reside in Abyei for few months a year to graze their cattle, should also be allowed to vote.
“Unfortunately my brother Al-Bashir and his government rejected the proposal in its totality” he said.
Whereas South Sudan accepted the AUHIP proposal, which calls for holding a referendum in the region in October 2013, Khartoum categorically rejected the proposal.
Sudan based its objection to the AUHIP proposal on the fact that it only allows “permanent” residents to vote in the referendum, arguing in a response to the AHUIP that the criterion fits Dinka Ngok and excludes al Messriyah.
Abyei is the most prominent of six disputed border regions whose status are yet to be determined. Those include Hofrat Al-Nuhas, Mile 14, Kaka Al-Tigaria, Al-Muqaines, and Goda.
Kiir underscored the urgency of resolving Abyei dispute, calling on AUHIP chairman Thabo Mbeki to refer the issue to the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) and to the UN Security Council. “This situation must be resolved sooner rather than later”.
Implementation of agreements to start within one month
The spokesman of Sudan’s foreign ministry, Al-Obaid Adam Marawih, said that the agreements had put Sudan-South Sudan relations “on the right track”.
Marawih pointed out that the implementation of the agreements should start within one month.
However, he acknowledged that the real challenge lies in the implementation. Marawih said that Khartoum considers the agreement on security arrangements as the most important one.
He explained that the security deal stipulates that South Sudan army should withdraw from five areas it controls, including from the “Mile 14” area which will be fully demilitarized.
“Mile 14” is a grazing territory occupying 23 kilometers between Western Bahr El-Ghazal State in South Sudan and East Darfur State in Sudan.
Marawih revealed that the monitors from the UN and the UNISFA peacekeeping force of Abyei will verify the withdrawal of South Sudan army from Mile 14.
Sudan Tribune has learned that the representatives of both countries at the Joint Defense and Political Committee have decided to return to Addis Ababa after a week to follow-up the implementation of the Security Arrangements Agreement, which is due to go into effect as soon as it is approved by the parliaments of the two countries within a deadline of one month.
Oil production to resume by end of the year
Meanwhile, South Sudan chief negotiator Pagan Amum said he expects the production of oil would resume by the end of the year. “We’ve already began the preparations. I think the oil will start pumping by the end of the year” he said on Thursday.
On the other hand, Sudan’s negotiator and former head of the country’s central bank, Sabir Mohammed Al-Hassan, welcomed the agreement on oil, saying it will generate revenues estimated at 2 billion US dollars a year.
The oil deal, which was already agreed in August, stipulates that South Sudan pays 9.48 US dollars on average for every barrel it transports via Sudan plus a one off payment of 3.028 billion US dollars in direct financial assistance to Sudan over a period of three and a half years.
Al-Hassan told reporters in the capital Khartoum on Thursday that the oil deal will have a positive impact on Sudan’s economic situation which has been deteriorating since the country lost three quarters of its oil production to South Sudan when the latter seceded in July last year.
Reactions to the deal
The signing of the agreements has been welcomed and commended by local and international parties.
US President Barack Obama welcomed “the historic agreement” between Sudan and South Sudan.
“This agreement breaks new ground in support of the international vision of two viable states at peace with each other, and represents substantial progress in resolving the outstanding security and economic issues between Sudan and South Sudan” he said in a statement issued by the White House on Thursday.
Obama pledged his country’s support to Sudan and South Sudan in implementing the signed agreements and expressed hope that they will encourage progress in resolving the conflicts in Sudan’s conflict-hit regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile as well as bringing peace to Darfur.
Likewise, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has welcomed the agreements and congratulated the leadership of both countries for signing them.
“These agreements provide vital elements in building a strong foundation for a stable and prosperous future between the two countries” the UN chief was quoted in a statement released by his spokesperson on Thursday.
He went on to urge both governments to find solutions to disputed border areas and determine the final status of Abyei.
Catherine Ashton, the European Union (EU) High Representative said the agreement reached between Sudan and South Sudan represents a historic step for both countries.
Ashton, in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune, said it was essential for both sides to implement the agreements without delay, citing the importance of immediate resumption of oil production and cross border trade activities to improve lives of ordinary people.
“The agreement on security arrangements will also contribute to stabilising the border area through the deployment of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mission. The EU stands ready to support the implementation of the signed agreements,” Ashton noted in the statement.
She however said while Thursday’s agreement proves an achievement, there are still some outstanding issues like on Abyei region to be resolved.
Locally, the opposition National Umma Party (NUP) of Sudan welcomed the development but demanded that the agreements be subject to plebiscites.
In a statement issued on Thursday, NUP said that the two presidents should cast the agreements for debate with members of the public and opposition parties especially on the issues of four freedoms and border disputes.