October 23, 2012 (JUBA) - The Governor of South Sudan’s Northern Bahr el Ghazal on Monday said that he will "fight" anyone who tries to take a contested area on the border with neighbouring Sudan from his state.
- General Paul Malong Awan, Governor of South Sudan’s State of Northern Bahr el Ghazal (Source: paulmalongforgovernor.org)
Governor Paul Malong Awan has been critical of September’s cooperation agreement between Sudan and South Sudan, which included the 14 Mile area in a demilitarized buffer zone between the two nations.
However, speaking to a meeting of MPs from his state on Monday Awan is reported to have said: "We must support the president. We also need to support our negotiating team but we must make it very clear that we will not accept any attempt to claim our land. We will fight the person who will take our land and the person who will give our land."
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir signed a cooperation agreement on 27 September with Sudanese President Omer Ahmed Al-Bashir on nine outstanding issues relating to South Sudan’s independence in July last year.
A key aspect of the deal was creating a demilitarized buffer zone based on a security map put forward the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) who are mediating between the two country’s, which engaged in a border conflict over another section of the disputed border in April this year.
On Tuesday South Sudan’s parliament ratified the agreement despite receiving mixed reactions including protests from MPs from Northern Bahr el Gazal State, who reject the inclusion of the Mile 14 in the demilitarized border zone between the two nations.
There have also been street protests in the capital Juba against the deal.
However, South Sudanese officials have responded that critics of the agreement, especially in regard to the status of Mile 14, do not understand the deal. The African Union, UN Security Council, as well as Juba and Khartoum, have stated that the position of buffer zone will have no bearing or prejudge any final demarcation of the 1,800-km border.
Leading government officials and civil right activists from the Dinka Malual ethnic group in Northern Bahr el Ghazal have voiced strong opposition to the deal. The critics of the deal say that Mile 14 was never mentioned in the any previous deal between Sudan and South Sudan, including the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
President Kiir and his negotiators have countered that the deal is just a temporary security arrangement.
Last week Kiir met with South Sudan’s state governors, asking them to explain the agreement in simple and comprehensible language so that citizens understand the benefits of the deal.
Northern Bahr el Ghazal was represented by Northern Bahr el Ghazal’s Deputy Governor Madut Dut Yel, who attended the meeting on behalf of Governor Paul Malong Awan who was out of the country at the time,
Since Governor Awan returned to Juba he has met Kiir twice, a presidential aide told Sudan Tribune, including a meeting on Monday.
No official statement about this meeting has been made public, though sources in the president’s office claimed the meeting discussed how the Governor could help the government educate citizens about the benefits of the cooperation agreement.
A Presidential aide told Sudan Tribune that he heard laughing from the meeting but did know what had been discussed.
Besides meeting with President, Awan held other meetings with community members and members of parliament representing the Northern Bahr el Ghazal at the national parliament in Juba. He is scheduled to hold additional meetings with youth groups before traveling back to Northern Bahr el Ghazal in the coming days.