September 18, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan and South Sudan have signed an agreement to monitor their shared borders and open crossing points a few days after Khartoum said it was experiencing an influx of southerners returning to the north.
- Sudanese Defence Minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein (2nd L) speaks during joint news conference with his southern counterpart John Kong Nyuon after signing an agreement, in Khartoum September 18, 2011 (REUTERS PICTURES)
The agreement was announced on Sunday following a meeting in Khartoum between Sudan’s defence minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein and his southern counterpart John Kong Nyuon.
Hussein told reporters that ten crossing points would be opened along the 2,200 km borders, which remain partially un-demarcated even after South Sudan gained full independence in July this year.
The deal comes amid rising tension between the ex-war foes after fighting erupted in Sudan’s borders states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile between the country’s army and combatants who fought alongside southerners during the civil war.
Sudan accuses the South of supporting its erstwhile allies in the two states, a charge Juba denies.
Hussein revealed that 300 monitoring teams consisting of six individuals from north Sudan army, six from the southern army and six Ethiopian peacekeepers would oversee cross-border arrangements and investigate any violation on the ground.
According to the Sudanese minister, the crossing points would be devoid of the northern and southern army.
Sudan says that 80 percent of the administrative borders with the south had been defined. The South recently accused Khartoum of blocking trade routes to the south, saying the action had led to increasing prices of fuel and basic commodities.
The two sides agreed on Sunday to meet next month, after consultations by a joint technical committee with the members of border demarcation, to decide where to locate the ten crossing points.
"This agreement will strengthen the exchange between the two people ... We don’t see any conflicts," Hussein said
For his part, John Kong Nyuon described the relations between the two countries as improving and important, adding that "without border security citizens won’t be happy."
Southerners "returning" to the north
Meanwhile, Sudan has claimed that dozens of southern Sudanese families had been returning to the north.
The governor of Sudan’s southern state of White Nile Youssef al-Shambali reported to the US-funded Sudan Radio Service (SRS) on Friday that these families are returning on daily basis and for unknown reasons.
"Between 40 to 45 South Sudanese families and not individuals, to the north generally, not only to White Nile State alone. They are on their way back to Khartoum and to different states in Sudan for reasons best known to them. That is what we are experiencing," he said.
In response, South Sudan Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told SRS that those southerners were going back to retrieve their belongings which Khartoum did not allow them to carry across the borders.
"These people are going back to bring their dues that have been blocked and delayed by Sudan government. They (Sudan government) refused to allow them come back to South Sudan with their dues and their own belongings. They have to go back to bring their dues. They just want to hide the truth without admitting the real reasons behind their returning," the minister said.