This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
South Sudan’s post-independence chief negotiator Pagan Amum told the press in Nairobi yesterday that President Salva Kiir Mayardit’s government is willing to pull out of the area provided a guarantee that the area will not be used to launch another attack against South Sudan.
According to the presidential statement delivered by Amum, the withdrawal would happen if the United Nations commits to deploying neutral forces to Heglig until a settlement between the parties is reached.
“The Republic of South Sudan intends to respect the Memorandum of Understanding on Non-Aggression and Cooperation of February 10, 2012 and the agreements of June 29 and July 30 2011, which commits the two parties to redeploy their forces 10 kilometers outside the North/South1/1/1956 borderline……” read part of the presidential statement.
Amum, who is also the SPLM Secretary General and chief negotiator of the Republic of South Sudan at the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) – mediated talks with the Government of Sudan in Addis Ababa, affirmed that the Republic of South Sudan is committed to peace and ready to prevent breakout of another round of violence.
“We have tasted war for centuries. We are not ready to go back again. We went to war because we needed our freedom, now we are free, there is no need for war”, he said.
He attributed the current stalemate between the neighbouring Sudans to failure to agree on the pertinent issues of oil, border demarcation, economy and security.
Amum maintained that South Sudan has exercised restraint in dealing with the attacks against them by the northern forces.
“We have been asked not to pursue retaliation. While South Sudan has consistently being asked to exercise restraint, Sudan has not been asked to do the same”, he said.
“On 11th April, Khartoum launched ground attacks and aerial bombardments deep into South Sudan, hitting the capital of Unity State, Bentiu. Pariang County was bombed. South Sudan has been hit by 60 aerial bombardments in the Months of March and April”, he revealed.
He questioned why the international community including the Africa Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) has been quick to denounce the occupation of the Heglig area by the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement Army (SPLA) while they have been quiet about the bombardments and attacks on South Sudan and its citizens.
“Where were AU and UN when we were bombed? Where is the international community? Why are they quiet when we are under attack? How can they say that it is illegal, where are the borders that demarcate the land. Let us demarcate the area and clearly define our borders”, he said, adding that despite an International Criminal Court ruling (ICC) ruling on Abyei, the Sudan Armed Forces still occupy the contested area and were not being asked to vacate.
He said that proposals by South Sudan have been met with hostility by their negotiating partners representing the Government of Sudan.
He cited the high transit fees for the oil produced as one of the main contentious issues. The Government of Sudan had proposed that South Sudan pays $36 per barrel as transit fee which the later rejected, saying international rates stood at $0.69 per barrel.
The recent feud between the two countries have come in the wake of failures by the two negotiating parties to sign a Cessation of Hostility Agreement that was to be signed early this month.
The talks collapsed in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa early this month. Shortly thereafter, Sudanese President Omar el Bashir who was to attend a Presidential Summit in Juba with his counterpart President Salva Kiir Mayardit cancelled his attendance amidst escalating tensions between the two countries.