June 7, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The South Sudanese embassy in Khartoum has protested a press conference held by a visiting delegation of the rebel SPLM-In-Opposition in the Sudanese capital, saying it breaches existing bilateral agreements.
- Salva Kiir attends the signing of the standard gauge railway agreement with China in Nairobi, Kenya, on 11 May 2014 (Photo: AP/Thomas Mukoya)
SPLM-IN-Opposition spokesperson Yohanis Musa Pouk , who is part of the rebel delegation visiting Khartoum to prepare for an expected visit by their leader, Riek Machar, held a briefing largely covered by Sudanese media on Thursday.
Pouk criticised Khartoum for its refusal to support the rebel movement, arguing they share the same enemy, Uganda, which continues to provide military support to the South Sudanese army (SPLA).
He said Kampala was now actively fighting against Machar, alleging that Uganda was also supporting Sudanese rebel groups planning to attack Bashir’s regime in the future.
He said while rebels had the ability to attack and control oil production areas in Upper Nile state, Machar had halted forces progressing further on oil fields located near the Sudanese border for fear of damaging oil installations.
Reacting to the presence of the rebel delegation, the South Sudanese embassy in Khartoum released a statement on Saturday, describing the press conference and as a “clear violation of the cooperation agreement signed by the two countries”.
The embassy’s press secretary, Gabriel Deng, said that allowing the rebel movement to hold press conferences in Khartoum is inconsistent with an agreement between the two countries on the need cease hostile media and propaganda against each other.
“Even neighbouring countries have not been spared” from criticism by the rebel movement, he added.
Meanwhile, South Sudan’s ministry of foreign affairs on Friday urged the Kenyan government to “curtail” its contact with the country’s armed opposition group in order to avoid creating “gaps in bilateral” ties.
The comments come after a group of Kenyan MPs criticised president Uhuru Kenyatta over what they described as a “red carpet” reception accorded to Machar during a six-day visit to the country last week
Machar was received by Kenyatta at the State House in the capital, Nairobi, where the two leaders reportedly discussed ways to advance the peace process for South Sudan.
However, the group of five Kenyan MPs protested over Kenyatta’s decision to hold the meeting, describing it as an “insult” to South Sudanese president Salva Kiir.
Negotiations, which are being mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), have so far failed to achieve lasting peace in the country, which erupted in violence in mid-December last year following a split in the ruling SPLM.
The latest round of peace talks were recently postponed without explanation.
The embassy’s statement highlights Juba’s frustration over recent diplomatic efforts by the SPLM-In Opposition with IGAD member countries.
Machar is expected to visit Khartoum following his meeting with Kiir in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on 9 June.
Sudanese officials declined to comment on the embassy’s statement.
The foreign ministry in Khartoum last month accused South Sudan of allegedly accepting support from Sudanese rebel group – the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) – to fight the rebel SPLM-In-Opposition, saying their involvement confirms Juba’s ongoing links to the Darfur rebel group.
Khartoum claims it maintains a neutral position in the ongoing conflict in South Sudan and is supportive of the IGAD-led mediation to reach a peaceful settlement to the crisis.