August 30, 2013 (KHARTOUM/JUBA/WAU) - South Sudan army (SPLA) has accused the Sudanese military of allegedly violating the African Union-mediated agreement on the establishment of a dimilitarised buffer zone along their shared border.
- SPLA spokesperson Phillip Aguer (Reuters)
“On 25 August, SAF [Sudan Armed Forces] violated the security agreement by returning to Joudat Al-Fakhar in Upper Nile state, an area which both countries’ armies had withdrawn from,” Phillip Aguer, the SPLA spokesman said Friday.
Two days later, he added, SAF withdrew to Jebelain, after their southern counterpart raised complains over its violation of previous agreements reached between the two countries.
Both armies, as per the security arrangement, were to pull their troops 10-km from the disputed borders, leaving a buffer zone.
“The situation is now calm with police forces from the two countries now in control of the area. The two armies are now 200m apart from each other,” Aguer further told Sudan Tribune.
The Sudanese army also announced that contacts with the South Sudanese military enabled them to contain recent tensions between the two sides on the disputed border area.
“The head of Sudanese military intelligence Sideeq Amir Ali Hassan talked to his South Sudanese counterpart General Mac Paul about the deployment of SPLA soldiers earlier this week (25 August) in Joudat Al-Fakhar White Nile state,” said SAF spokesman, Al Sawarmi Khaled Saad.
Al-Sawarmi further stressed that following these contacts, the two sides held a meeting in the area and formed a joint patrol in line with the decisions of the security committee which took place in Khartoum on 30-31 July.
A member of the White Nile legislative assembly Musa Fadal-Allah Idris on 25 August told reporters in the state capital Rabak that a SPLA force composed of 100 soldiers surrounded the inhabitants of the disputed area, closed the school, prevented farmers from cultivating their lands, and banned the entry of goods into Joudat Al-Fakhar.
Meanwhile, Renk county commissioner confirmed that the SPLA had restored law and order, days after SAF reportedly crossed into an area considered to be inside the South Sudanese territory.
"It is true there was a serious concern as movement and businesses were disrupted in Jadat Al-Fakhar area. People going and coming to and from ceased movement, farmers were blocked for more than two days but this situation was addressed promptly by the SPLA command", Guot Akuei told Sudan Tribune Friday.
The southern army command, according to the commissioner, avoided confrontation with after notifying their northern counterparts of the situation on the ground.
"We made contacts with the state governor and the sector commander. They (Governor Kun Puoc and Sector II commander, General Johnson Gony Biliu) immediately contacted the general command about the security situation here and it was resolved. (The situation) is normal now. People are going and coming across the border", said Akuei.
- SAF spokesperson Al-Sawarmi Khalid Saad (SUNA)
He however echoed earlier claims that the Sudanese army had indeed crossed into an area beyond the buffer zone and set up a base before intervention.
“They moved in and set up a base and started collecting taxes from the people within the territory of the republic of South Sudan. The area was not far away. It is 16 kilometres from here”, said the commissioner, in reference to Renk county.
Deng Jok, a native of Renk has expressed fears of possible clashes between the two countries’ armies, should the joint security committee fail to convince the two sides.
"I am telling you that my farm has now been affected. The people I hired to carry out weeding have not stopped going there because they fear [for] their safety. I paid all of them, but the presence of the foreign forces in the area makes it difficult for them to continue working there", Jok complained.
The two countries nearly returned to full-scale war in April last year, when their armies clashed in the disputed oil-rich region of Heglig/Panthou after the SPLA temporarily took over its control.