Machar urges resolution of Darfur conflict, vows to settle Abyei issue by March
February 2, 2011 (JUBA) – The leadership of the soon-to-be independent state of South Sudan wants to see the ongoing armed conflict between Darfur rebels and northern Sudan government quickly brought to an end peacefully, saying it has invested interest in achieving peace in that region.
||South Sudan’s Vice President, Riek Machar, on Tuesday said a priority of the emerging independent state is to make sure that it establishes strong relations with north Sudan after secession of the South following the referendum on independence. However, he expressed fear that the continuation of the Darfur conflict could harm the chances of achieving good relations.
Preliminary results announced by the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission indicate that the people of South Sudan have voted overwhelmingly for secession by 99%. The Vice President explained that an independent state of South Sudan has already been created by the secession votes of the people, while the remaining announcement on 9 July, is a mere formality.
Machar told the Italian diplomats, Roberto Cantone, Italian Ambassador to Sudan, and Gianni Vernetti, Member of Parliament in Italy, during their meeting in Juba on Tuesday, that the Darfur war, unless brought to an end, may in the future spill over to the South, with Darfurians crossing over for refuge in the new independent state.
Among other issues, demarcation of 2,000km north-south border is not yet concluded. Officials from both north and south have expressed their commitment to resolve the issues in a peaceful manner and forge good relations in the future. There is an estimated population of 50,000 Darfurian citizens already residing in South Sudan, in addition to other citizens coming from other regions of the north Sudan. Most of them are business people trading in South Sudan.
Machar said they have the right to residence in South Sudan, even after independence.
Darfur shares long borders with the South Sudan’s two states of Western and Northern Bahr el Ghazal. Days before the referendum started on 9 January, Northern Bahr el Ghazal state was subjected to aerial bombardments by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) which claimed to be pursuing Darfurian rebels, alleging they crossed the border to South Sudan.
The Vice President expressed fear that the Darfurians in South Sudan may continue to be disturbed by the situation in Darfur and be sympathetic to the population’s suffering in their home region.
Achieving peace in Darfur would neutralise the situation and allow for smooth trade and movement of people between the two future independent Sudans, he argued.
He called on the international community to assist the warring parties in the ongoing peace processes to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.
Machar also informed the Italian diplomats that the two parties to the 2005 peace deal, the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), have agreed to finalise the issue of Abyei by March this year.
The meeting also touched on the processes of the conduct of popular consultations in Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains.
The Vice President, who mediated the peace process between the Ugandan government and the rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), said there is need to review how to deal with the LRA if the present military approach alone against the rebels has not achieved peace.
LRA leader Joseph Kony refused to sign a concluded text of the Juba-mediated final peace agreement with the Ugandan government in 2008, citing indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) as an obstacle.
Internally, Machar informed the diplomats that all the political groups in the South, together with civil society organisations and faith-based groups, have already agreed on a roadmap in October 2010 that will guide the region on issues of governance in the post-independence period.
He also said the government has been making peace with the rebel army officers and forces of the Other Armed Groups (OAGs) who did not join the Juba Declaration of 2006, in order to achieve a secure and politically stable environment for the coming period.