Home | News    Saturday 14 April 2012

International peacekeepers prerequisite to withdraw South Sudan troops - Kiir

April 13, 2012 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir Mayardit demanded Sunday that United Nations peacekeepers be deployed on the border with Sudan before to withdraw its troops from Heglig.

South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir addresses Souh Sudanese parliament on April 12, 2012 (AFP)

The SPLA’s occupation of Heglig on Tuesday 10 April has surprised many observers including Khartoum, who have vowed to retake the area, which accounts for over half of its oil production.

South Sudan has come under immense pressure to withdraw from the area, which was not one of the five main disputed areas on the 1,800km largely demarcated border under negotiation in African Union (AU) chaired in Addis Ababa. Heglig is internationally recognised as being in Sudan’s South Kordofan State as per a ruling if the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2009.

Since the SPLA took Heglig the UN, AU, European Union and individual nations that have been string supporters of South Sudan’s independence; the United States, United Kingdom and Norway have all called for the SPLA’s immediate withdrawal. Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) has also been asked to stop its bombing South Sudanese territory and both sides to cease assisting rebels either side of the border.

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir in a statement released Friday outlined the circumstances under which he would withdraw the SPLA. He asked for "a clear mechanism and guarantee [...] that Heglig will not be used to launch another attack against South Sudan."

Kiir further pointed out that the SPLA troops will be pulled out of Heglig if the "United Nations could commit to deploying neutral forces to Heglig which could be present in the area until a settlement between the two parties is reached."

In a press conference held in the Kenyan capital South Sudan top negotiator on the outstanding issue Pagan Amum echoed the content of the presidential statement and urged the deployment of an international forces before the SPLA withdrawal.

"We are ready to withdraw from Heglig as a contested area ... provided that the United Nations deploy a U.N. force in these contested areas and the U.N. also establish a monitoring mechanism to monitor the implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement," Pagan said.

In Khartoum, where the government rejects any South Sudanese claims on Heglig, SAF spokesperson al-Sawarmi Khaled on Friday announced that the army had launched a counter-offensive that would force the SPLA out of the area. The outcome of the SAF offensive was unclear on Friday evening.

Juba said the capture of Heglig came as result of repeat air and ground attacks on Unity State by the Sudanese army units based in the area. However, Salva Kiir two days after the attack invoked before the parliament the unresolved situation in Abyei and linked it with the seizure of Heglig.

ABYEI

Bordering Heglig in Abyei a UN force is deployed with a mandate to oversee the withdrawal of SAF and SPLA forces after the north took Abyei town by force in May last year. However, Abyei is recognised as being a disputed territory internationally unlike Heglig, which South Sudanese refer to as Panthou.

"We remind the international community that SAF-forces still occupies Abyei despite repeated calls for withdrawal of all armed forces from the area" said the statement. South Sudan accuses the international community of moral equivalence over Abyei - an oil producing are that border Heglig - and believes Khartoum should receive more pressure to withdraw as per an agreement last year.

A recent UN Security Council report found that both countries has unauthorised forces in the area, whose self-determination referendum did not take place in January 2011 as the two sides could not agree on who should be allowed to vote.

"South Sudan has not and will not use force to resolve these issues", the release from Kiir’s office said.

OIL DISPUTE

The SPLA’s decision to take and hold Heglig is the second bold move Juba has made this year. In January it announced that it would halt oil production over a transit fee dispute with Khartoum. It had widely been assumed that Juba’s threat to turn off the pumps was brinkmanship.

When South Sudan seceded it took with it 75% of the country’s oil production but the two sides have not been able to agree how much the new landlocked should pay to transport its crude to the Red Sea.

On Thursday South Sudan announced it had shut down the Heglig oil fields meaning that Sudan lost over half of its 110,000 barrels per day oil production. Queues were reported at petrol stations in the capital as fears grew of a fuel shortage, but this has been dismissed by the government.

As well as at the pump the ripple effect has reached Khartoum politically with newspapers being warned over what they report and threats to limit the activities of political parties the government says are aligned to rebel groups in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur.

MACHAR CALLS ON UNITY STATE CITIZENS TO HELP SPLA

Officials in Unity State have claimed that SAF have dropped numerous bombs on the area targeting its oil fields as well as civilians. Despite evidence of large craters and remnants of shells being reported, Khartoum denies it has bombed South Sudanese territory.

Sudan and South Sudan launched recently large scale campaigns to mobilise civilians’ support to the army but also to recruit new soldiers and militias.

On Friday South Sudan’s Vice President, Riek Machar Teny, urged citizens of the new country, which became independent in July 2011, to support the army in repulsing what he said was an unprovoked invasion of South Sudan’s territory by Sudan.

The commander of the SPLA Division Four in Unity State, Major General James Gatduel Gatluak, who briefed Machar, on Tuesday in the Unity State’s capital, Bentiu, said his forces only responded to the “provocative” assault by SAF and repulsed the invading forces, pursuing them into Heglig town and capturing it.

Machar has been based in Bentiu for the last week on an inter-communal peace mission touring counties of Unity and Warrap states. He called on the citizens of the bordering states to materially and morally support the SPLA in defending the territorial integrity of South Sudan.

The Vice President also urged the communities in the three states of Warrap, Lakes and Unity to stop cross-border cattle raiding and reconcile in order to face the challenges ahead of the nation.

Communities and civil society organizations in Unity State have contributed hundreds of bulls and other consumable commodities to the SPLA forces on the frontline.

(ST)

Statament by S. Sudan’s President Salva Kiir on Heglig crisis