August 23, 2013 (JUBA) - The leader of South Sudan’s governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in Upper Nile state has denied releasing a statement questioning the impartiality of the African Union (AU) team of border experts.
Jok Dok Jok said he had simply expressed concern over the lack consultation with communities along the contested Sudan-South Sudan border.
"I am not aware of the release rejecting or questioning the role of the African Union team of border experts. What we have discussed with our negotiators was the involvement of the local people in the border discussions, and the need for experts to visit these areas themselves for real information instead of relying on the briefings from the third party", Jok said on Friday.
Jok was reacting to media reports which attributed some quotes to the SPLM leadership in the state questioning the AU’s effectiveness in proposing security mechanisms aimed at lessening tensions between the two sides.
Jok, who comes from one of the contested regions in Renk county, said he hoped the AU would rely on “testimonies [rather] than political arguments by politicians”.
"These places which have been made contested and [the] claimed areas along the border from the east to the west are all from the Republic of South Sudan. Some of the current leaders we have in this country were born [in] these places. I have family members born and raised in Kuek, Wunthou and Magnes. One of my youngest brothers was born in Kuek which has now been designated as one of the contested regions and the map keeps extending southwards", Jok said on Friday.
He says the agreement signed between the two Sudans on September 2012 provides for the creation of a safe demilitarised buffer zone along their shared common border in an effort to separate the two armed forces so as to reduce the likelihood of the cross-border conflict between the two nations.
“The security arrangement requires that both sides pull back all the armed forces to their sides of the border from the areas of original deployment which were identified and designated as safe demilitarised buffer zones and establish a joint border verification mechanism to monitor compliance and carry out investigations for violations”, said Jok.
We complied by withdrawing our troops from the border areas but Sudan failed until today.
“It is the presence of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) within these areas which represents a clear violation of the security arrangement. Everybody, including the African Union, knows this but they are quiet”, he explained.
In an exclusive interview with Sudan Tribune, the former deputy governor argued that the presence of the SAF had resulted in the massive displacement of the civilian population, who have been subjected to a series of attacks following the withdrawal of the South Sudanese army (SPLA).
Upper Nile state’s minister of information, Philip Jaden, described the presence of the SAF in Magness as an illegal act that is in clear violation of the 2012 the agreement and territorial integrity of an independent state.
"[The] Sudan Armed Forces as you know is completely a foreign oppressive force which now occupies our sovereign community and territory. They are unwelcome, uninvited and now carrying arms in the area", he said.
"Their presence is not just a violation of the cooperation agreement but [an] act violating our sovereignty and national integrity", the minister added.
He said the issue of territorial sovereignty was at the heart of the ongoing dispute and remained a sensitive one for both the border communities in the state and the central government in Juba.