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N. Bahr el Ghazal Governor says not “an inch” of Mile 14 will go to Sudan

September 27, 2012 (WAU) - General Paul Malong Awan, Governor of South Sudan’s State of Northern Bahr el Ghazal said on Wednesday that his administration and the citizens of the area will never accept giving an inch of the contested "Mile 14" area to neighbouring Sudan.

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General Paul Malong Awan, Governor of South Sudan’s State of Northern Bahr el Ghazal (Source: paulmalongforgovernor.org)

The two sides are expected to sign a deal on Thursday over resuming exporting South Sudanese oil through Sudan and creating a demilitarized border zone. The deal did not cover disputed areas along the 1,800km oil-rich border.

Mile 14 - a disputed area of grazing land located between Western Bahr El-Ghazal State in South Sudan and East Darfur State in Sudan lying south of Kiir/Bahr Al-Arab River - was the major sticking point in Khartoum agreeing with the border zone map proposed by the African Union mediation team.

Khartoum claims Mile 14 is Sudanese land and figures in the maps of Sudan since 1924 as part of the Darfur region. But the Governor dismissed Sudan’s claims in comments to South Sudan Television upon arrival at Juba International Airport returning from Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where he had accompanied the country’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit to the talks.

“Our negotiating team in Addis Ababa is doing very well", Governor Awan said.

“The 14 miles area which Sudan claims is not their area. We know our areas. The international community should not put pressure on the government of South Sudan about this area. They suppose to go out if it. If they make mistake, we will not accept as community. Not even an inch of the area will be taken”, said Awan in his first public statement over the issue since negotiations between the two sides begun.

Awan, who became state governor in 2008, was a zonal commander for the SPLA - the former rebels who are know South Sudan’s official army - in the area during the two decade civil war between south and north that ended with signing of the 2005 peace deal. South Sudan seceded last year as part of the agreement but a host of partition related issues remain unresolved.

He warned that the area would not be annexed to anywhere without consent of the people from the state unless the people who lived there were completely wiped out.

“It will not happen. Nothing will take it without consent of our people unless we are not there”, he said invigorating and confirming statement he reportedly told President Salva Kiir last week he would resign if the area is conceded to Sudan.

Aweil Diaspora Reaction

Davide Yel, a secretary of information for the Aweil community in United States of America said on Tuesday that the Diaspora hundred percent support the total rejection of any claims by the Sudanese government over the area.

“We Aweil youth in Diaspora want to thank Aweil elders and State governor Malong Awan for knowing our right. The land is not something we should compromise. We the people of Mading Aweil love welcoming whoever wants to come and stay in our community but we do not have a land to give out. We went to bush [to fight in the civil war] because of land," Yel told Sudan Tribune by phone.

Another Aweil Diaspora community representative in Australia, Gabriel Garang Pioth, also dismissed Khartoum’s claims over the area. Sudan was only after minerals and oil-producing areas along the borderline, he said.

James Alic Garang, a native of Northern Bahr el Ghazal currently doing doctoral studies in United States expressed his disappointment with lack of representation from the area at the talks.