January 21, 2013 (JUBA) - South Sudan this week accused the government of neighbouring Sudan of reneging on a deal signed in September 2012, claiming that its withdrawal of troops from border areas demonstrated its willingness to fully implement the pact without raising preconditions.
The South Sudanese minister of defence, John Kong Nyuon, told reporters last Monday upon his return from of Addis Ababa, that Khartoum continues to make impossible demands in an apparent bid to “backtrack” on international efforts to resolve outstanding issues.
“Khartoum demands that the security arrangement be done first which we accepted, but their thinking and interpretation of the security arrangements seems to be different,” he said.
Nyuon says while his government prioritises the implementation of the Safe Demilitarised Border Zone (SDBZ) and the implementation of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM), Khartoum is pushing for the disarmament of the rebel Sudanese People’s Liberations Movement-North (SPLM-N)
Nyuon said Sudan’s position is in contrary to the position of the United Nations and other regional bodies, including the African Union (AU), who have recognised that the SPLM-N has a political case that needs solution.
The minister added that the conflict between Khartoum and the rebel group is “an internal matter” and “nothing to do with us”. He further asserted the SPLM-N rebels are “a separate entity operating under a different command and in the territory of a different state”.
Sudanese defence minister Abdel-Rahim Hussein says Juba will not discuss its support to SPLM-N rebels, who are active in the Sudanese border states Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
The international community has also called on South Sudan to distance itself from the rebel group and encourage efforts for a peaceful settlement to their plight.
Juba continues to deny providing any support to its former allies who fought alongside the South during a protracted civil war with the north.
Nyuon maintains his government broke ties with their former comrades immediately after the new nation was born, after winning its independence from Sudan in July 2011.
“The SPLM-N is negotiating with Sudan directly because it is an independent entity. It has no ties with us. The international community knows this but Khartoum continue to think that we should disarm the SPLM-N. This is impossible because there is no grounds and we have repeatedly told them no,” he said.
Agreements signed by both governments last September regarding security, border demarcation and the final status of the disputed Abyei Area have yet to be fully implemented. The situation has caused a stalemate between the two countries, with Khartoum refusing to accept passage of South Sudan’s oil flows through its territories.
Nyuon said the South Sudanese government has sent a letter to the AU communicating its official response to claims made by Sudan that they were harbouring and providing assistance to the rebel group and re-affirming its readiness to discuss the Joint Political Security Mechanism (JPSM).
The mediation team adjourned the talks in the Ethiopian capital between the neighbouring states until mid-February after the two sides failed to forge an agreement on a wide range of security and border issues.
Besides the disagreement over the SPLM-N issue, Khartoum accused Juba of proposing to partially withdraw its troops from the “Mile 14” area which is claimed by both sides.
Nyuon said the establishment of the SDBZ 10km on either side of a temporary non-binding line, covering five disputed areas as outlined in the Addis Ababa Cooperation Agreement signed on 27 September was one the issues the two sides could not reach a compromise on.
“Without demilitarisation, it will be difficult to fulfill the provisions in the September agreement which require bilateral cooperation, particularly those concerning cross-border petroleum operations,” he said.
In November 2011, the AU presented a map that placed a strip of land known as the Munroe-Wheatley area, or “Mile 14”, south of Bahr el-Arab on South Sudan’s side of the demilitarised zone.
The area will now be jointly administered by local authorities on both sides of the border: the Rizeigat Arabs in the north and the Dinka Malwal in the south.
However, the governor of the Northern Bahr el Ghazal state in South Sudan, says he will not concede “an inch” of the so-called “Mile 14” area to the north.