Bashir attracts applause in Juba

Asmaa Husseini, Tuesday 4 Jan 2011

Bashir's visit to Juba has been hailed as a positive step, and possibly the beginning of a new chapter between North and South

Prominent leaders of Sudan's south welcomed president Omar Al-Bashir's visit to Juba and conveyed their hopes that his visit signifies good relations in the future between the South and North.

An advisor to Bashir, Abdullah Masar, said that this visit comes as the president oversees the final preparation for the upcoming referendum (on January 9) and as confirmation of his commitment to its results.

Atem Garnag, from the People's Liberation Movement leadership and vice-president of the parliament, considered the visit a positive message.

"If the National Congress, which is lead by the Sudanese President Omar Bashir, respects the result of the referendum that reflects the people's wishes, Bashir will become a national hero in the eyes of the southerners," Garnag said.

A member in the People's Liberation political bureau and its former head of intelligence, Edward Leno, said Bashir's visit to the South was a farewell one. Leno added that he hoped a new page was being turned in relations between the North and South, warning that bad relations would be detrimental to both sides.

Others in the movement's leadership, like Deng Koc, said that that the South's government took care to provide a healthy atmosphere for the visit and understood the gesture's importance despite the large number of lingering political, economic and security issues yet to be discussed.

Koc also said that the South was taking the opportunity of Bashir's visit to convey a positive attitude to Khartoum and show that they aspire for good neighbourly relations. This would be beneficial to all, more so than appearing incompetent and unable to control its territory in the face of Khartoum's efforts to support the rebels in the South or create disruptions before the vote.   

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