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AU urges Sudan & South Sudan to complete nationality talks

February 17, 2012 (ADDIS ABABA) – The African Union (AU) has urged Sudan and South Sudan to finalise their discussions on nationality and reconsider the deadline set to resolve the matter.

African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping listens to the AU national anthem early on January 31, 2012 in Addis Ababa (GETTY)

Sudan and South Sudan have been engaged in talks moderated by the African Union High Level Panel (AUHIP) to resolve a number of issues including nationality.

Both countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 12 February in Khartoum to conduct mass deportation of Southerners staying in Sudan. United Nations (UN) agencies put their number at 700,000 while Sudan says they are less than 400,000.

Sudan has amended its nationality law and striped its former Southern nationals of their Sudanese citizenship in the wake of their massive vote for the secession of their region in a vote held at the start of last year.

Khartoum set 8 April this year as a deadline for all Southerners to leave Sudan or regularise their stay as foreigners, drawing criticism from local and international groups who called for giving Southerners the right to acquire Sudanese citizenship.

Juba on the other hand vowed not to retaliate and announced that northern Sudanese will be able to acquire South Sudanese citizenship if they provide proof of a sufficient period of stay in the south.

The latest round of talks on the issue was held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and chaired by the AUHIP member and former president of Burundi Pierre Buyoya.

In a press release on Saturday, the chairperson of the AU commission, Jean Ping, noted, and commended both sides for, the progress achieved in the latest round and urged them to expeditiously complete the discussion in order to address the status and treatment of nationals from each state residing within the territory of the other.

Ping appealed to both sides to adopt a process for the acquisition of nationality and relevant immigration documentation that are efficient and accessible to individuals.

The release noted that the two sides discussed in the latest round the concept of the Four Freedoms which would permit the movement, residence, economic activity and ownership of property within the territories of the two states.

The AU also welcomed the decision of the two sides to establish a Joint High Level Committee to oversee measures relating to nationality, saying that the new body should immediately address all outstanding issues, “giving priority to humanitarian aspects, in particular returns, documentation, the Four Freedoms, and a further review of the Transition Period."

Sudan and South Sudan are still struggling to resolve a host of issues arising from the secession of the south in July last year. The two sides have already taken significant steps to untangle their economies, including introduction of separate currencies, but issues like management of oil and nationality still await resolution.

(ST)