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Khartoum & Juba talks stall over slavery allegations

March 7, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – A fresh round of talks between Sudan and South Sudan over post-secession issues has hit a snag after Juba accused Khartoum of refusing to discuss the issue of the alleged 30,000 Southern slaves held in Sudan.

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South Sudan’s cheif negotiator Pagan Amum (GETTY)

In a press conference held on Wednesday in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, the venue of the talks, South Sudan’s chief negotiator Pagan Amum accused the Khartoum government of ignoring the issue of 30,000 Southern citizens suffering slavery in Sudan.

Amum’s accusations come one day after the recently separated countries began a new round of talks on Tuesday under the mediation of the African Union High Level Panel (AUHIP) led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki.

Sources told Sudan Tribune that the AUHIP has informed both parties about the negotiations schedule which gave priority to discussing the issue of the status of Southerners in Sudan and northerners in South Sudan.

Amum recalled that in June 2011, Khartoum terminated the mandate of the National Commission for Fighting Abduction of Women and Children, which was established in January 2002 to address the issue of slavery.

According to Amum, the move was intended to “punish” Southerners for choosing to vote for secession in the January 2011 referendum which paved the way for their region’s independence in July of the same year.

He went on to criticise Sudan’s decision not to acknowledge the existence of slavery in the country.

“It is a bizarre position that the government of Sudan is refusing to admit that there are Southern slaves in Sudan. It is the same government that manumitted more than five thousands of them,” he said.

Amum said that the number of southern slaves in Sudan is estimated at 30,000.

In response, the official spokesman of Sudan’s foreign ministry, Al-Obayd Adam Marawih dismissed Amum’s allegations as an attempt to scuttle the talks and forestall any agreement on the status of Southerners in Sudan.

According to Marawih, the Sudanese delegation had already agreed to sign the agreement proposed by AUHIP on the issue but Juba’s negotiators refused to sign and raised allegations of abduction and slavery in the north.

He said that the government delegation already countered these allegations and stressed that there is no slavery in Sudan.

Marawih said that the government of South Sudan would bear full responsibility if it fails to sign an agreement on the status of their citizens in Sudan before 8 April, the deadline set by Khartoum’s government for Southerners to leave the country or regularise their stay as foreigners.

The ministry’s spokesman warned that as of 9 April Southerners would be subject to all measures regulating the stay of foreigners in Sudan.