In the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, the negotiating circles of Sudan and South Sudan were marked with a rare optimism, following the signing of an agreement to demilitarise the dsputed Abyei region.
Southern Sudanese government officials stressed Monday their government’s intention to overcome the current problems and to forge a good relationship with the northern capital of Khartoum.
The government of South Sudan also revealed that talks between north and south are aiming to make settlements on the future of the states of South Kordofan and the Blue Nile. Fermina Mawketh Manar, a member of the Southern delegation, said that Yasser Arman and Abdel Aziz Adam Al-Hilw, leaders in the South People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the north, are on their way to Addis Ababa to take part in the talks.
Both leaders hope to reach a satisfactory agreement and settlement regarding the two states which still harbour armies loyal to the movement. Furthermore, according to Manar, the SPLM leaders believe that a settlement must include the status of the states in the post-independence stage of South Sudan which will officially be announced in July.
Manar also said that the two states need to coexist in harmony, stability, cooperation and mutual interest, and dialogue must be the only means for resolving problems. There is much optimism about resolving disagreements and suspended cases, said Manar. Leading the way are the cases of South Kordofan and the Blue Nile while Abyei is moving forward due to the agreement.
Pagan Amum, minister of peace in the government of South Sudan and secretary-general of the SPLM, said that negotiations between the two parties aspire to solve all stalled cases; at the forefront is the drawing of borders, citizenship and economic issues. He added that the agreement reached regarding Abyei includes temporary security arrangements stipulating that northern forces withdraw from Abyei.
Ethiopian UN forces, under the direction of the international organisation and through its decision to protect tens of thousands of the regions’ citizens that have fled following the northern army’s invasion, will step in for the interim. Pagan saw the agreement as a positive step to end the war and the plight of the Abyei citizens.
The negotiating delegations have been designated as committees and the issue of Abyei remains the most difficult, where the agreement may be seen as a temporary lull of the situation and not a final resolution. Citizenship is also a thorny issue especially for the south since a large number of its members reside in the north. This is due to the north’s reluctance to grant dual nationality to those residents in spite of the fact that many of them were born and lived in the north. The south had announced that it would allow for dual nationality for northern Sudanese citizens living in the south whose numbers are much smaller than their southern counterparts in the north.
A dispute still exists at a few points on the two thousand kilometre border and over Sudan’s share of water that currently reaches 5.18 billion cubic metres. The separation of the country has been decided but the settlement of economic problems still lingers. Most important among these economic problems is the issue of oil, 80 per cent of which is produced in the south but issued by the north.