April 28, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudan government on Monday reiterated its commitment to maintain stronger ties with neighbouring Sudan, saying it would respect the cooperation agreement both countries signed in September 2012.
- Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir (L), Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn (C) and South Sudanese president Salva Kiir (R) at the third Tanana Forum on Security in Africa held in Ethiopia’s Bahr Dar town on 27 April 2014 (SUNA)
The new nation, its presidential affairs minister said, was determined to promote mutual respect with Sudan over each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
“The president met with the Sudanese president on the sideline of the meeting in Bahr Dar, where he attended a function on peace and security. It was a function about illicit financial flows and the impact of the transfer of these illegally acquired funds, some of which are obtained through illegal means, including corrupt practices,” Awan Guol Riak told reporters while briefing them on the purpose of the high-level visit.
Riak and his foreign affairs counterpart, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, were among the senior government officials and military officers who accompanied president Salva Kiir to the forum hosted by Ethiopia’s prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn.
Former Nigerian leader, Olusegun Obasanjo, recently appointed to head the African Union Commission of inquiry on South Sudan, also attended the forum where presentations were made on security matters affecting the African continent.
GIVE AND TAKE
Marial emphasised the importance of good relations between the two Sudans, saying they both give and take, which was essential for regional development and stability.
“The prevalence of peace and stability between the two countries become the regional peace because the two countries are established islands. If there are good roads which links Khartoum and Juba, the ordinary people will use them to access goods and services. It will facilitate movement of our people and when this happens, when there is a free and secured movement between the two countries, the region is served is in one of way or other,” the foreign affairs minister told reporters in the capital, Juba.
“The goods from Khartoum will go to Kampala and there they go to Kigali in Rwanda and Nairobi in Kenya. But there is a security issue, this movement is affected and it becomes a regional concern,” he added.
Marial said president Kiir had “substantive” discussions with his Sudanese counterpart, Omer al-Bashir, which focused on how to accelerate talks on border security matters, especially the deployment of the joint temporary force.
“It was frank and honest discussions. The president emphasised on the need to accelerate the ongoing bilateral discussions on security matters in the light of current security situation. He (Kiir) made it clear it is important that it is time the two leaders appreciate the importance of the cooperation agreement, especially the security arrangement. And I think that is the key,” the minister stressed.
Marial said a formal high-level army-to-army exchange would be helpful because it would reduce the spread of "military rumour" and avoid conflict. He also expressed his government’s commitment to promote healthy relations with neighbouring Sudan.
“As the government of the republic of South Sudan under the president of Salva Kiir Mayardit, we are committed to ensuring that the terms of the cooperation agreement are respected and implemented. We are only committed to ensuring that the two countries work together to strengthen strategic mutual trust,” he said.
South Sudan’s presidential spokesperson, Ateny Wek Ateny, confirmed that president Kiir and his Sudanese counterpart met on the sidelines of the two-day peace and security forum, but said discussions held were closed-door.
In recent months, however, analysts and observers claim the stronger ties which initially existed between the two countries were growing weak and far below the level of current relations between Juba and Kampala. There are also concerns regarding the deteriorating ties between Sudan and Chad as well as with Eritrea or Ethiopia.
Military officers from the two Sudans have often traded accusations over territorial disputes, sparking tensions along the undemarcated borders in recent weeks with Juba accusing Khartoum of allegedly training and hosting within its territory rebel fighters loyal to former vice-president, Riek Machar.
Sudanese government and military officials have dismissed Juba’s claims.