February 5, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese government may engage in direct negotiations with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) if Juba hands over documents proving its disengagement with the rebel group.
In a meeting on 25 January, the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUSC) urged chief mediator Thabo Mbeki to convene talks between the Sudanese government and the SPLM-N over ongoing humanitarian and political issues.
Officials sources in Khartoum said the Sudanese government will start discussions with the SPLM-N if the South Sudanese side in the Joint Political and Military Committee provides documentation proving its disengagement with its former allies, which the country had pledged to hand over in a meeting scheduled for 13 February.
The sources also said the AU mediation team is expected to extend an official invitation to the Sudanese government on Tuesday to commence talks with the rebels on 15 February.
Daniel Kodi, a leader of a splinter faction of the SPLM-N and former governor of South Kordofan state, met on Monday with the speaker of the Sudanese parliament, Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Taher, to discuss the situation in the Two Areas, as well as ongoing preparation for talks with the SPLM-N.
Kodi, who is also a member of the government’s negotiating team, told reporters following the meeting that he had discussed proposals his party, the SPLM-Peace Stream, had presented during the previous round of talks between the two parties.
He said their proposals, which were accepted by the two parties, may be “endorsed in the next round as basis for negotiations”.
The Sudanese government and the SPLM-N held a number of indirect talks last year in Addis Ababa, but failed to hold direct discussions on the agendas proposed by the mediation team.
In August 2012, however, they signed a three-month humanitarian agreement which was not implemented after both parties failed to agree on the modalities of its implementation. On a political level, Sudan demanded the disengagement of South Sudan, while the SPLM-N sought a comprehensive process before agreeing to direct negotiations.
Asked by Sudan Tribune to comment on this development, SPLM-N secretary-general Yasir Arman said they were not aware of the talks because the mediation team had not yet invited them to meet the Sudanese government.
“We will react when we receive a letter from (African Union High-Level Implementation Panel) AUHIP chief Thabo Mbeki,” he said, adding that in their last meeting with him they had discussed the humanitarian and political situation and “we reiterated that we are always ready to discuss [issues] with the mediation [team]”.
Arman underscored that the humanitarian situation in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states remains critical, saying the Sudanese government has yet to prove its seriousness by allowing aid groups to access SPLM-N-held areas.
“The humanitarian crisis in the Two Areas is the biggest crisis in Africa today. If Khartoum is not ready to give food to the affected civilians how they can be ready for any political settlement?” he said.
SPLM-N chairman Malik Agar said on 29 January that providing humanitarian access to the two states will create a suitable atmosphere for the implementation of a comprehensive political process, including Darfur rebels and opposition parties.
Asked about the statements Kodi made, Arman said “Kodi is part of the National Congress Party (NCP) and we had never discussed with him any proposal, let alone to agree with him”.