By Dhieu Mathok Diing Wol
One of the distinguished negotiators from the South Sudan negotiating team in Addis Ababa was reported as saying, “Arabs are very desperate about African Union’s new Map, which considered 14 miles south River Kiir part of Northern Bahr el Ghazal in South Sudan, and this requires a lot of work from our side."
To add my own personal take, I could say this position does not require effort to prove Sudan wrong as all documents justifying the creation of 14 miles grazing corridor are available. It is a known fact that the Sudan government is not desperate about 14 miles south Kiir as such but also disturbed of the independence of South Sudan.
The above quotation from one of the negotiating team members worried many people here in Juba and perceived to be an indication of surrounding rich territories to Sudan. The citizens are not aware of details of African Union new Map of July 2012 and the negotiating team should have enlightened people about the Map to know exactly where the borderline with the Sudan passes.
Last April Khartoum launched an international campaign to justify its claim over Panthou after retaliation of SPLA against aggressive SAF, and managed to secure wider support from many states, including those countries which have never been in one side with the regime since its arrival to power through the military coup in 1989. The status of the area remains unclear under African Union’s map of July 2012.
Kafia Kingi/Hofara el Nahas another disputed area between Western Bhar el Ghazal and Southern Darfur which was annexed to the North in 1960s remains unknown under the African Union new map. The silence of Khartoum about these Oil-rich areas means the lands were already abandoned by the African Union map for the interest of the Sudan. However, the proposed agreement on disputed and claimed areas submitted by South Sudan negotiating team before the African Union dateline finished as solution modality, and rejected by the Sudan has really something appreciable, and it is advisable to stick on it.
South Sudan negotiating team in Addis Ababa must also be suspicious of African Union map of July 2012 and focus on its gloomy aspects and try to share it with the populace, since the map provides the basis for the current negotiations on the borders. People should not be seen as accepting everything from African Union High Implementation Panel, despite all its negative aspects. The mediating team plus their international partners dictated $ 25.88 on South Sudan as a fee for transporting its oil through Sudan, exceeding all known international standards in this field by far.
Khartoum strategy to claim 14 miles south Kiir was a wash-off and should be considered an attempt to retain Panthou, Kafia Kingi/Hofara el Nahas and all other disputed areas along the border. South Sudan negotiating team and the mediation should pay attention on this dangerous scenario.
14 miles south Kiir is part of South Sudan from its name and any attempt to redraw it means aggression. The area was proposed by the British administers to be a grazing land for Arab nomads in 1918, and initially, it was 40 miles up to Lol River and Shell Kou (25 miles north and northwest Aweil town). Unfortunately, the Arab nomads misused the agreement and went hunting animals in Ashana Park. Subsequently, the agreement was reviewed in 1924, and the area was shortened to 14 miles (Around Jaj area; Arabs rename it Majaj where there are many agricultural schemes).
The purpose of this agreement was very clear. It was meant for the cattle grazing during dry season and not for the whole year, something which has never been denied to Arab nomads not only in Northern Bahr el Ghazal but all the border areas between the Sudan and South Sudan.
Notwithstanding, the actual North-South borderline between Dinka Malual and Rizeigat tribes is 10 miles north Kiir. This is where many Dinka cattle camps are found. These cattle camps were used extensively during rainy seasons by the Dinka tribesmen who migrated northwards to avoid insects biting their animals.
The Wheatly-Munro Agreement does not stipulate an article preventing the Dinka cattle to across the river but restricted the use of 14 miles south Kiir by the Dinka in the dry seasons to allow Arab nomads to graze their animals in the area, since the Dinka Wuot (cattle camps) are returned to their homes. This was necessary to prevent clashes and conflicts between the tribes. The Dinka Wuot situated north Kiir were usually camped when Arab nomads make their return journey to their homes in the rainy season, as there was no reason they should continue grazing in the Dinka lands.
The misinterpretations of the Wheatly-Munro Agreement and all claims along South Sudan border were deliberately made by the regime in Khartoum as a way of searching for resources that could fund its project the so called “Civilization Project” aimed at marginalization of non Arab origins in Sudan. It was impossible to continue financing this project after South Sudan seceded with its all oilfields last year.
Claiming the areas, which are parts of South Sudan territories by the name of nomad tribes, will never serve communal peace but instigation for political interest, which should be understood by the leaders of Misseriyia and Rizeigat communities. The regime in Khartoum tries to use Missseriyia tribes in South Kordofan to invade Abyei and succeeded, to a certain extent, to confuse the international community resulting to a delay in the Abyei’s referendum. Now, the regime is trying to use the same tactics by influencing Rizeigat tribe of Darfur to complicate the issue of 14 miles south Kiir, though nobody refusing grazing right to Arab nomads in South Sudan.
The proposal of African Union regarding River Kiir a borderline between Northern Bhar el Ghazal and Dafur has been recognized and widely accepted by many observers as a fair deal and could serve a win-win situation for the both countries though the community leaders of Dinka Malual believed their border with Rizeigat tribe is beyond 10 miles north Kiir.
Dr. Dhieu Mathok is the author of Politics of Ethnic Discrimination in Sudan: A Justification for the Secession of South Sudan and lecturer in the Center for Peace and Development Studies, University of Juba, South Sudan. He can be reached at aromjo