South Sudan asks IGAD to help AU resolve conflict with Sudan
May 1, 2012 (LONDON) - South Sudan’s lead negotiator with Sudan over post-independence issues and resolving the current conflict indicated Tuesday that he hopes East African countries can play a larger role in talks between Juba and Khartoum.
Pagan Amum told an event at Chatham House in London that South Sudan’s "primary membership" was of East African regional bloc the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and then continental bloc the African Union, which has been mediating between the two sides.
Pagan who is also the Secretary General the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) said that there was an "important role to be played by our region" in resolving the un-demarcated border, disputed territories, oil fees, citizenship, debt and other issues.
Sudan and South Sudan are both members of the regional group, which mediated the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended two decades of civil war between Khartoum and the SPLM.
However, the regional organization was marginalised in the talks on the implementation of the peace agreement and the outstanding issues. The AU Peace and Security Council was much involved after 2005 to reaffirm its leading role in the achievement of peace in the black continent.
Amum’s comment, that he would like to see IGAD "playing a more active role" in the negotiations, comes after severe criticism of the African Union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP) by some South Sudanese officials in recent weeks.
Former South African president Thabo Mbeki, chairman of the AU mechanism, has also come under criticism for his role at the negotiations, which had been taking place on and off in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa until conflict broke out over the disputed oil-rich area of Heglig in April.
On 2 April, South Sudan’s information minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin tolf reporters from Nairobi that his government was unhappy not with the AU report to the UN Security Council about the recent border clashes. Also Some officials accused him of being closely linked to Khartoum.
However, Amum said that he was happy with the road map laid out by the African Union Peace and Security Panel (PSP) calling on the two sides to resume talks and resolve key issues within three months.
Amum reaffirmed the readiness of his country to return to the negotiating table but was waiting for Sudan to do the same. South Sudan already informed The African Union of its acceptance to resume talks with Sudan.
Khartoum announced Monday its formal acceptance of the AU road map but accused Juba of occupying recently a number of disputed locations on the border between the two countries. Sudan also said the talks should start with the security file including the presence of Sudanese rebels in South Sudan.
The African Union plan for peace, which gives the two countries three months to reach peaceful settlement over the disputed issues, is debated currently by the UN Security Council. The US drafted a resolution to endorse the African road map under the article 41 of Chapter 7 which allows to impose economic sanctions.
But China and Russia are seemingly reluctant to allow the sanctions threat to be included in the draft resolution, also but it appears unlikely that they will veto it should the vote proceed as planned on Wednesday.
Speaking about the Chinese role, in the resolution of the conflict between the two countries, the chief negotiator regretted that Beijing is being very "cautious". "They definitely need to be more proactive, especially in relation to Sudan and South Sudan," he further said.
China during the past year was very close from Khartoum which was controlling the oil industry in the country. But since the independence of South Sudan, Juba controls 75% of Sudan’s past production. However Beijing has important investment in the north.
Last week a South Sudanese lawyer and commentator, Macor Agok told the South Sudan TV that China now has important interests in the new nation stressing that they expect the international community to exercise more pressures on Khartoum to stop the bombardment on his country.
Pagan said they want to see China playing a more active role and to catch up its foreign policy with its international position, as they "have huge investments abroad".
"By trying to move away from Khartoum so as to get closer to South Sudan and trying not to get too close to South Sudan so as not to cause displeasure to Khartoum ... neither Khartoum nor Juba will be happy with China," he said.