Home | News    Sunday 18 March 2012

Sudan VP downplays significance of nationality accord amid fierce internal criticism

March 17, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The second Sudanese Vice President Al-Haj Adam Youssef sought to downplay the nationality framework agreement signed this week with South Sudan saying that it is simply an agreement on the principle of ’Four Freedoms’ but that details have yet to be sorted out.

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Men demonstrate against the United Nations’ decision to extend the United Nations/African Union Mission’s mandate in Darfur (UNAMID) in Sudan, after taking part in Jumma prayers (Friday prayers) in Khartoum August 19, 2011 (Reuters)

Youssef was quoted as saying by the government sponsored Sudanese Media Center (SMC) website that the Addis Ababa accord was based on the vital tenant of "trust building" which supports stability in the two countries.

He called the pact a "turning point" in the mentality of negotiations.

The two sides reached an understanding that their citizens can enjoy “freedom of residence, freedom of movement, freedom to undertake economic activity and freedom to acquire and dispose property". A joint committee from Khartoum and Juba will meet to write details of the ’Four Freedoms’.

Sudan’s VP said that media inaccurately reported that a final agreement on nationality was reached stressing that no in-depth discussion was made on the issue. He further said that this can be done after concluding and then implementing an accord on security arrangements.

This month, Youssef warned that by 9 April 2012 any Southerner in the north will have to either leave the country or seek to adjust their status, a move that drew criticism from human rights groups.

But the Sudanese VP appeared to soften his earlier statements saying that 9 April is not the date by which Southerners in Sudan will be ’kicked out’ but the date by which they need to regularise their status and that as of that day they will be considered foreigners.

However, he warned that a certain class of South Sudanese could face deportation immediately.

"If we get hold of an unwanted Southerner because of his negative role in security, social or economic sabotage then we have the right to expel him," Youssef said.

Sudan’s presidential adviser Mustafa Ismail addressing the same topic said that "Khartoum is not stupid" to sign the ’Four Freedoms’ agreement with South Sudan and that the accord gives 8 million northerners cattle grazing rights.

"We should not deny northerners the right to invest in the South and leave the South for the west," he told Sudanese expatriates in Egypt.

But many in Sudan, particularly from the far right Just Peace Forum (JPF) and hard line Islamists, remained unconvinced and harshly critical of what they view as too many concessions by Sudan’s negotiating delegation.

Idriss Abdel-Gadir, a member of Sudan’s negotiating team, broke down in tears as he addressed those who attended Friday sermon prayers to defend the agreement.

Prior to that, Sheikh Mohamed Hassan Tanon, the mosque’s preacher who led the prayers, likened the accord to the Egypt-Israel 1978 Camp David peace treaty and described those who endorsed it from Khartoum side as "traitors".

Tanon was unaware that Abdel-Gadir was one of those attending the prayers at his mosque. When the Sudanese official took the podium and identified himself he was met with disapproving grunts from worshippers but he kept his cool and told them that their behaviour is contrary to the mosque’s rules. He said that anyone not wishing to listen to him could leave.

Abdel-Gadir rejected accusations levelled against the negotiating team of being unpatriotic and unfaithful to their religion. He started crying which gained him some sympathy from worshippers who asked him to continue because he was talking objectively and rationally.

He went on to say that Sudan was targeted even before independence and noted that they fought against the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) despite the support it received from neighbouring countries. When the SPLA found them strong they resorted to peace, he added.

The Sudanese official went on to say that Khartoum persistently rejected demands from Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) during negotiations to make the capital secular, which was eventually dropped by Southerners.

At another mosque during Friday sermon, the head of Ansar al-Sunna sect Sheikh Abu Zaid Mohammed Hamza blasted the government for agreeing to grant Southerners residency rights.

"The South is gone so let them enjoy their state as we had enough humility, humiliation and killing....We thought with the south’s secession we will be happy and they will be happy" Hamza said.

He described Khartoum’s negotiators as "idiots".

"Are you not embarrassed or ashamed from Allah? They [Southerners] want to interfere in our affairs after separation......Allah does not accept agreements which are humiliating for us, our religion and our Sharia’a" Hamza added.

In the same context, the preacher of Quran House Party mosque Mukhtar al-Sideeg called on the government to nullify the four freedoms and said that Sudanese people must decide whether to endorse it or not through a referendum.

"The Sudanese in the South are treated badly by the Government of South [Sudan]" he explained.