October 24, 2012 (JUBA) - A group of business people from South Sudan’s Northern Bahr el Ghazal State on Wednesday spoke out against high-profile objections raised against the cooperation agreement President Salva Kiir Mayardit signed in September with his Sudanese counterpart Omer Al-Bashir.
Many in South Sudanese border state have been angered that the 14 Mile area has been included in the demilitarized buffer zone, which was a key part of the deal addressing post-partition issues between the two nations.
Both countries as well as the UN Security Council and African Union had clearly stated that the buffer zone will in no way prejudice any final resolution of disputed areas and demarcation of the contested oil-rich and fertile 1,800-km border.
The representative of the business group said rejected those who have claimed that th deal in some way hands 14 Mile to neighbouring Sudan.
“Nobody has given away 14 mile area. Our president had repeatedly said it. He said it in the parliament. He also told the members of our community when he met with them and has told number of individuals from our community who have met him in their own capacities”, Lual Bol Kuan, a native of Northern Bahr el Ghazal who spoke on behalf of the business group said.
Kuan’s group said is the first to categorically rejected objections of the deal, asserting that those agitating rejection inclusion of the14 Mile area in the safe demilitarized buffer zone, as individuals wanting to “create [a] problem” between citizens of the state and the central government.
He accused Governor Paul Malong Awan of creating confusion between the government and the citizens of the state and called on him “retract” his statements opposing the security arrangement.
“All this confusion has been created by the governor Paul Malong Awan immediately when he returned from the talks in Addis. It was him who came and went straight to the press instead of waiting for the president and the negotiating team to come and explain to the people what they have agreed and signed with Sudan," he claimed.
The governor has declared he would not accept withdrawal of the SPLA forces from the area but since meeting twice with President Kiir has urged people to support the President and the negotiating team.
However, he has remained defiant he will "fight" anyone who tries to take 14 Mile from his state.
Speaking to a meeting of MPs from his Northern Bahr el Ghazal in Juba 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."
But Kuan says that the Governor has been "the whole cause" of the confusion and resentment against the Cooperation agreement in regard to the 14 Mile area.
"He even went further declaring that withdrawal would only take place in his absence. It is him who vomited out this venom which has now created tension”, Kuan explained.
There have been street demonstrations in the capital Juba against the deal.
The business leader argued that the government accepted the agreement because it was a requirement for resumption of exporting South Sudan’s oil through Sudan. The young nation’s economy has suffered severely since oil production was halted at the beginning of the year as part of a dispute with Khartoum.
However, the Governor’s supporters have responded to defend him.
- Hussein Abdel Bagi Ayii Akol, a former advisor in the Northern Bahr el Ghazal State government speaking at an Aweil community meeting in Juba. 11 Oct. 2012 (ST)
Hussein Abdel Bagi Ayii Akol, a former advisor in the Northern Bahr el Ghazal State administration, denied that Governor Awan had mobilized citizens against the agreement. It was the citizens themselves who felt the agreement had led to possibility of loosing their land.
“There are people claiming that Governor Malong had mobilized people to oppose the agreement. This is not true. Governor Malong did not mobilize anybody," he said
He further added "The people just found themselves disapproving the agreement because everyone saw it was not good. It gave out their land. Who will accept that 14 mile area does not belong to Dinka Malual? I just want to give example of myself. I was born in this area and even completed part of my elementary education in Warguet”, Akol told the audience at a youth meeting last week.