Home | News    Monday 1 March 2010

Egypt invites Kiir, Bashir in a last ditch bid to preserve Sudan unity: report

February 28, 2010 (KHARTOUM) – Cairo will soon dispatch its foreign minister Ahmed Aboul-Gheit and intelligence chief Omer Suleiman to Khartoum extending invitation to president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir and his First Vice president Salva Kiir to visit, a newspaper reported today.

The Kuwaiti based Al-Jarida newspaper quoted multiples sources in both capitals as saying that Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak will also pay a visit to Khartoum and South Sudan capital city of Juba following Bashir and Kiir’s travel to Cairo.

This will be Mubarak’s second visit to Juba since November 2008 when he became the first Egyptian president to do so since 1962.

The sources said that Cairo is doing a “last ditch” attempt to support Sudan which represents “a strategic backend”. Furthermore, the sources said that in this last year prior to 2011 referendum, Egypt is seeking to “build a consensus” between the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) on a number of issues primarily the country’s unity.

The move comes a week after Cairo hosted an NCP-SPLM summit in which proposals to postpone the April elections and the 2011 referendum were floated. Both sides failed to narrow differences particularly on the implementation of the Islamic Shari’a law.

The Sudanese Undersecretary of Foreign affairs Mutrif Sideeg and member of the NCP delegation said that this position is not negotiable.

“We will not abandon our Shari’a nor do we call on the others to accept what they do not accept. We accepted the principle that citizenship is the basis of rights and duties, and we have accepted the principle of unity in diversity, and therefore will not commit others to what we are committed to. We do not accept that the others void our personality, religion and identity under any circumstances,” he said.

Al-Jarida said that Cairo is concerned that the mounting tensions between the two peace partners will distract from efforts to build security, stability and unity.

Egypt has felt sidelined on the many peace initiatives related to its Southern neighbor, observers say and has failed to be effective in brokering agreements between Sudan’s rivals whether in North-South conflict or Darfur.

The Arab regional power is worried that it is losing leverage aimed at convincing the NCP and SPLM to work for unity and prevent South Sudan from seceding. It has inaugurated a number of development and education project in the last few years in an apparent bid to tempt South Sudanese into voting for unity.

Earlier this month, Mubarak delivered unprecedented remarks indicating that Cairo is expecting South Sudanese to pick independence in 2011 but called for a “peaceful” separation.

Mubarak has reportedly criticized Khartoum for lacking the will to preserve the unity and warning that there are regional powers wanting to fuel conflict in the area which he described as “vital to Egypt”.

The issue of South Sudan secession is sensitive one to Cairo largely due to its impact on the Nile water agreement and the possible reallocation of share with the new state even though legal experts say that the water agreements are still binding to the new state.

The Nile basin countries which have been fiercely pushing for amending the water agreements will hold a meeting in Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm Al-Sheik next week. Egypt and Sudan have veto right over any modification of the 1929 and 1959 agreements.

With almost 80 million people, Egypt’s water demand is projected to exceed its supply by 2017, according to a government reported published last month making the regional power more concerned than ever on maintaining the unity of Sudan.

Last year, sources at the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) told Sudan Tribune that Kiir cut short his visit to Egypt “after feeling uncomfortable with the level of pressure exerted by Egyptian officials on the issue of preserving Sudan’s unity”.