Sudan, South Sudan, deadlocked in protracted peace talks | Africa | DW | 06.06.2012
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Sudan, South Sudan, deadlocked in protracted peace talks

It is a week since Sudan and South Sudan resumed African Union sponsored peace talks. This was the first time the two had met since they teetered on the brink of war following clashes along their contested border.

Seven days ago Sudan said it hoped the talks, beginning on May 29, would mark a "new chapter" in relations "away from conflict and warring." South Sudan said "amicable dialogue on the outstanding issues with Khartoum is the only option for peace."

A week later those talks in Addis Ababa had stalled, after the two sides had failed to agree on where to set up a demilitarised zone.

"We have not yet been able to agree on the line from which the safe demilitarized border is going to be drawn," said South Sudan foreign minister Nhial Deng Nhial during a break in the talks.

He added that the parties were still far apart, but was optimistic that a deal could be reached.

Defence ministers from Sudan and South Sudan had met on Monday to discuss the buffer zone, but tensions rose the following day when South Sudan's chief negotiator Pagan Amum accused Khartoum of renewing air strikes. Sudan official Abdul Rahman Sir Al-Khatim rejected the accusations as an "utter fabrication and a lie"

An aerial view of an oil field near the town of Bentiu, central Sudan, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2007. This ramshackle town of mud huts and dirt roads is swarming with returning African refugees, Arab tribesmen, heavily-armed militiamen and rival troops from north and south Sudan _ all eyeing each other cautiously, fearing a spark that could detonate the volatile mix. Nearby lies a prize that all sides are eager for: some of Sudan's richest oil fields. (ddp images/AP Photo/Alfred de Montesquiou)

A dispute over oil transit fees is one reason why tension between Sudan and South Sudan persists

Citizenship issues

Adjoa Anyimado is an assistant researcher with the Africa Program of the Chatham House think tank in London. Asked why the talks appear to be so laborious, she explains that the final border demarcation between north and south, quite apart from any demilitarised zone, is not the only issue keeping the two sides apart. There is also the sharing of oil revenues, and "citizenship issues, the status of southerners living in the north and northerners living in the south."

That human side to the conflict was thrown into sharp relief on Wednesday when the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) announced that the last chartered plane in an airlift of 12,000 South Sudanese had just flown from Khartoum to Juba, the capital of South Sudan. A hundred South Sudanese were on that plane. The IOM began its operation three weeks ago after the Sudanese authorities had ordered South Sudanese to leave makeshift accommodation in Kosti, some 300 kilometres from Khartoum.


Anymado suggests that expectations, not just for these talks but for Sudan and South Sudan relations in general, might have been too high.

A SPLA-N fighter sits with an anti-aircraft weapon near Jebel Kwo village in the rebel-held territory of the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan, May 2, 2012. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic (SUDAN - Tags: CIVIL UNREST)

It was not clear how long the talks on security would last

"In the run-up to South Sudan's independence last year there was a lot of positive feeling and I think for a number of actors there was the assumption that when South Sudan became independent then all of its problems would be solved. That hasn't been the case at all."

A number of ceasefire agreements between Sudan and South Sudan, including a deal to demilitarize border areas have been repeatedly violated by both sides.

Author: Mark Caldwell

Editor: Asumpta Lattus

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