September 2, 2013 (JUBA) - South Sudanese president Salva Kiir Mayardit on Monday pledged his commitment to pursue a peaceful dialogue with the government of neighbouring Sudan, amid ongoing disagreements over a host of post-secession issues.
- South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir (REUTERS/Andreea Campeanu)
Kiir made the remark during an address to members of the parliament broadcast by the state-run South Sudan Television (SSTV), in which he announced the resolve of his governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) to appoint Magok Rundial as the new speaker, replacing new vice-president James Wani Igga.
The nationally televised address also showed images of Igga and senior members of the SPLM, including former vice-president Riek Machar and former deputy speaker Daniel Akot Awet calling on members to unite.
Kiir told the house his visit to Khartoum was in response to an invitation extended to him by the Sudanese president and followed extensive discussions within the government before a decision was made.
The former rebel leader-turned-politician told the house that the summit between him and his Sudanese counterpart, Omer Hassan al-Bashir, would discuss the way forward on outstanding issues issues in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which have remained unresolved during the six-year interim period.
“The issue of Abyei which has been one of the issues we have not been able to address all this time will be one of the issues we will discuss again during the summit, and I hope we will reach an agreement to conduct the referendum this time. We will also discuss border issues and the flow of the oil”, Kiir said.
Foreign affairs minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said the leadership of his country is prepared to open a new chapter in diplomatic relations with Sudan.
“As the government, we have declared our commitment to fully implement the cooperation agreement and to open a new chapter for strong, cooperative and peaceful relations for the benefits of our citizens and the economic growth of the two countries”, said Marial.
The minister made the remark in a statement broadcast by SSTV which showed an image of defence minister Kuol Manyang Juuk and acting Jonglei governor Hussein Maar and himself holding a meeting with president Kiir on Monday.
He said he briefed the president on his recent visit to Kenya and Zimbabwe to attend the inauguration of president Robert Mugabe who was recently declared the elected head of state following the 31 July election.
ABYEI TOP OF THE AGENDA
In an exclusive interview with Sudan Tribune from the US, Luka Biong Deng, a former co-chair of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC), expressed confidence that Kiir would keep Abyei at the top of the agenda.
"I have no doubt of the ability of our president Salva Kiir. He is more concerned than anybody and I am sure he would push the issue of the referendum of Abyei to be discussed as a priority at the summit. I know [Sudan’s ruling] National Congress Party (NCP) would like the heads of state to discuss the border issue and oil. The leadership in Sudan may want the issue of Abyei not to be given serious attention at the summit between the two presidents", Biong said on Monday.
Biong further stressed that it would be mutually beneficial for both leaders to reach a consensus on holding a referendum on the final status of Abyei in order to avoid further conflict in the region, saying failure to do so will likely force the people to Abyei to take unilateral action to determine their destiny.
"The summit provides the opportunity for the two presidents to resolve the status of Abyei. If they fail, then there is nothing which the international community would again tell the people of Abyei and they should not be blamed for any decision they may take to determine their fate", said the official.
The only way to avoid such a scenario from happening is to reach an agreement spelling out clearly [the terms], including giving out the date for the conduct of the referendum, he added.