September 13, 2012 (JUBA/KHARTOUM) – South Sudan’s army on Thursday accused the army of neighbouring Sudan, of carrying out renewed aggression in its territory despite the ongoing negotiations on security arrangements between the two parties in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
- A Sudanese military Antonov plane (photo Amnesty-file)
The spokesperson of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), Col. Philip Aguer, in a press statement issued on Thursday said that warplanes belonging to Khartoum have hovered over Unity and Upper Nile states over the last two days in violation of South Sudanese airspace.
For three hours, he said, an Antinov hovered over Unity State and that Khartoum has been amassing troops at the border around the disputed border region of Heglig/Panthou.
Last week military sources told Al-Sudani newspaper in Khartoum that the SPLA is massing troops in Unity state on the border with South Kordofan State near the oil producing Heglig/Panthou which is located 15 kilometres from the boundary.
Colonel Hussein Gabar El-Dar who was speaking from the disputed area told the daily that the SPLA is undertaking large-scale military manoeuvres jointly with Sudanese rebels at 10 kilometres from the common border.
He further reiterated the readiness of the Sudanese army to repulse them if they attack again.
The two sides clashed over the area in April when the South Sudanese Army attacked and occupied the area for ten days, last April.
Juba said that it was responding to aggression by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), which has bombed many areas of Unity State and other border areas since South Sudan’s independence last year.
Khartoum’s denies it has dropped bombs on South Sudanese territory despite it being witnessed by UN officials and international journalists as well as members of the South Sudanese press and government.
Sudan accuses South Sudan of backing rebel groups north of the border, an allegation that is reciprocated by Juba.
In South Sudan’s Jonglei State David Yauyau relaunched his rebellion earlier this year having signed a peace deal with the government in 2011. In Unity the South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA) have fought the government since March 2011, despite some leading figures rejoining the government. Juba alleges that both groups are backed by Khartoum.
The Sudanese delegation to the talks have been keen to emphasize the security track of the talks in the hope that Juba will be forced to admit its backing of their former comrades in arms the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N), who fought with the SPLM, South Sudan’s ruling party during Sudan’s civil war.
The SPLM-N have been fighting SAF in Blue Nile and South Kordofan for over a year after the military tried to disarm SPLM-N members before key aspects of the 2005 peace deal had been implemented.
Khartoum and Juba have yet to agree on a buffer zone which would stretch 10km either side of the border. However, the temporary border security map proposed by the African mediation to delimit the demilitarized zone has been rejected by Sudan.
Juba has reluctantly agreed to the security map, put forward as part of the African Union roadmap, which has been endorsed by the UN Security Council and the African Union’s Peace and Security Council.
However Khartoum says it would not accept it because such move can be used as evidence against its ownership of Mile 14, a grazing area located between Western Bahr El-Ghazal and East Darfur.