March 4, 2017 (KHARTOUM) - The rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/North (SPLM-N) Saturday said it has released all Prisoners of War (POWs) from the government forces and transferred them to the Ugandan capital, Kampala.
South Kordofan and the neighbouring Blue Nile states, also known as the Two Areas, have been the scene of violent conflict between the SPLM-N and Sudanese army since 2011.
In a statement extended to Sudan Tribune Saturday, SPLM-N said the operation “Good Intentions” to release the POWs comes “in memory of the martyr Brigadier Ahmed Bahar Hajanah, a POW from the SPLM-N who was physically liquidated [by the government troops] inside the UN premises in Kadougli in June 2011”.
It pointed the move came after conducting wide internal consultations that ended up with the decision to release all 130 POWs from government forces, adding the step “would bring cheer and joy to the hearts of thousands of POWs families”.
The statement said that hundreds of the residents at the SPLM-N controlled areas have seen off the POWS with popular celebrations “to uphold the value of human life and the ideals for which the movement is struggling and to build a new society that recognizes other people and to maintain the national fabric”.
It added that the Movement held contacts with the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), saying the former conducted the necessary contacts with Sudan and South Sudan to enable the ICRC transfer the POWs to Uganda via external crossings.
“SPLM-N once more showed respect for the international humanitarian law and the conventions regarding POWs,” said the statement.
SPLM-N further thanked “Shaykh Abdalla Al-Araki, leader of the Qadiriyyah Sufi Order and the Sai’hoon group who sincerely sought to release the POWs”.
Meanwhile, Secretary General of the Sai’hoon, Fath al-Aleem Abdel-Hai, told Sudan Tribune that more than 200 POWs have arrived in Kampala, saying they will begin to arrive in Khartoum on board ICRC aircraft at dawn on Sunday.
He stressed the SPLM-N released all POWs from government forces, saying his group wouldn’t take part in the handing over of the prisoners but they will be received by their military units.
Abdel-Hai added the transfer of the POWs file to humanitarian rather than political issue would ease tensions between the two sides at the negotiating table, demanding the Sudanese government to reciprocate SPLM-N’s move in order to promote trust.
The Sa’ihoon group, which means ‘God-seeking wanderers’ in Arabic, is a loose association of committed Islamists and former Popular Defense Forces (PDF) combatants.
In 2013, the Sa’ihoon distanced themselves from the government of president Omer al-Bashir and demanded the end of war and democratic reforms.
In December 2014, the SPLM-N decided to release 20 POWs and 21 staff of mining companies as a gesture of goodwill for the Sa’ihoon which held a series of meetings with the rebels in Addis Ababa over peace and democratic reforms.