By Bonifacio Taban Kuich
August 18, 2013 (BENTIU) – The South Sudanese army (SPLA) in Unity state has denied claims that forces from the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) are present inside the country’s territory.
- South Sudan’s SPLA soldiers hold up their weapons as they shout at a military base in Bentiu 22 April 2012 (Reuters)
Speaking to Sudan Tribune on Saturday, Brigadier General Michael Majur Aleer, the chief of operation and the acting officer in charge of the 4th infantry division, described rumours that the SAF had crossed the border into South Sudan as misinformation
He said that the leaders of the two army forces are currently in negotiations to create a buffer zone area, with the African Union (AU) joint border verification monitoring mechanism (JBVMM) facilitating discussion between both sides last week.
“We had a successful discussion on our side as [the] SPLA and also [the] SAF have agreed to move out 10kms from the buffer zone areas in order for the local authorities from both countries to open up customs offices for peaceful crossing”, said Aleer.
The acting officer in charge has confirmed that the SAF demanded that the SPLA leave the disputed Tashuin area, but that South Sudan denied the request, stressing that the area was part of its territory.
He added that the JBVMM team had understood South Sudan’s position.
The SAF has claimed the Parieng junction, an area inside Tashuin territory, but the SPLA maintain the area is situated deeply inside South Sudanese territory.
Aleer cites maps showing South Sudan boundaries, which confirm Tashuin is part of South Sudan, according to a recent border assessment by the AU.
He said the SPLA was prepared to move 500m south and another 500m to the northern boundary, in order to create a 10km buffer zone.
Aleer said the recent discussion between the two countries concerning the military operation along their common border had been successful, adding that he hopes both sides will soon open customs offices 200m from each side in order for immigration to begin.
He said both sides had also agreed to leave a 10km buffer zone, with joint patrols to be deployed to monitor the border and establish a demilitarised zone in the disputed areas.
Earlier this month, the SPLA accused the SAF of a border shooting incident that left one Sudanese soldier dead and injured two others, amid claims the SAF were drilling oil wells inside the buffer zone areas.
The fourth division commander, Maj-Gen James Koang Chuol , says only six SPLA soldiers were patrolling along the buffer zone areas when SAF soldiers opened fire on them on 5 August.
Following the incident, the SPLA accused the northern army of violating provisions of the security agreements reached between both countries.
Koang said calm had since been restored after senior leaders from both sides admitted in negotiation last week that the incident was a normal occurrence in military operations.