Media Role in Sudan/South Sudan Relations; Forum

  • Category: Opinions

    “The Forum aim was to highlight the importance of the issues of security and social and economic relations on the future of the relations between the two countries. Same time take into consideration that the length of the border is about 2000 kilometers”; said the Society President Mr. Mahgoub Mohamed Saleh.

    The first paper which was reviewed in the first part of this review was Dr. Dr. Khalid Al-Tijani, focused on the importance of economy on the relations between North and South Sudan. The second paper reviewed in this paper; “The Savannah Belt in North South Relations”, presented by Dr. Yousif Takana, the well writer and politician.

    The characteristics

    To discuss the present and future role of the savannah belt between the Sudan Republic and South Sudan, some general remarks are essential.
    Historically, the region witnessed the emergence of most Sudanese kingdoms in the 17th and 18th centuries. These were the Fur, Tagali, Nuba and Fung kingdoms; ss power centers these kingdoms established very strong traditions of governance, trade and diplomatic relations and social structures. The colonization of Sudan (1890-1956) of swept all these power centers but the heritage of these Sudanese kingdoms still remaining and influencing the social structure. Two dominant ethnic groups settled, interacted and cooperated in almost all spheres of life. These are the African indigenous groups who established the power centers (kingdom) and African pastor-nomadic groups (cattle and cows herders). After Sudan independence in 1956, the United Sudan Central government( in most political regions) dragged the nomadic groups into proxy wars in combating the mutiny in the South( which was later changed into liberation war).This proxy wars along the savannah belt created antagonism between the inhabitants of the belt with those in South Sudan. When South Sudan was separated and became an independent state, a number of disputes on the boarders were created the new state and the old one. Most of the disputed areas between the two Sudan are along the savannah belt. This further deepened conflicts and created new facts on the ground.
    Dr. Takana proposed some issues for discussion to enhance peace and interaction. Most important the issues of ; border ,grazing rights, commercial and trade relations, transport and communication, governance, common development projects, education especially emphases in local vernaculars (ethnic, local languages and Arabic), regional and local oriented researches and the creation of civil society organizations along the area to enhance peace, cultural and common objectives of the local communities.
    In addition, politics at all political levels in both Sudan and South Sudan must consider positively the above mentioned policy issues. Though this is of prime importance yet the crux of the matter will remain in the hands of the local elite and their neighbouring communities.

    The Boarders

    The issue of boarders between the two Sudan states is sensitive issue for both regimes in Juba and Khartoum. In both capital, the political elite in the NCP (National Congress Party)  and SPLM (Sudan People Liberation Movement) manipulated the issue of boarders for political mass support while neglecting consultations and interests of the grass roots communities who lived together for long times.  This type of approach further complicated the issue and created ethnic polarization. Without indulging into technicalities the concept “soft boarders” may be only way out if these communities are to live in peace and develop their lives for the better

    Grazing rights

    One of the most important issues in the savannah belt after the South Sudan independence in 2011 is the grazing rights. The estimates of nomadic cattle’s that used to spend the dry season (4-6 months) in South Sudan grazing lands is about 14 million in Darfur and Kordofan. Most of these belong to the “Baggara” from Darfur, Khartoum, White Nile and the Blue Nile states in Sudan. For this huge numbers of cattle’s to continue in the hands of those tribes inter-state regulation for grazing is of paramount importance. For both Sudan and South Sudan states it is amoral and political obligations to look seriously into grazing rights that established in many regional and international conventions.


    Commerce and trade are the most important tools for connecting people, developing their interests and build trust for peaceful exchanges. In recent decades parts of Savannah belt communities developed substantial pieces of lands into commercial farming in stable food (Dura) and oil seeds.  Parts of these products were marketed in South Sudan neighbouring areas like the districts of Malakal, Wau and even further South in which a number of markets flourished and a lot of people from both sides engaged in commercial transactions. These kinds of activities should be encouraged and facilitated for the benefit of the area, for peace, peace building and transformation of these communities. 

    Before South Sudan independence there were many proposals to link the South at that time with the North to help unity. The proposals failed due to the lack of will and vision. Now the two Sudan’s need to develop their respective communities in the Savannah Belt in the Sudan and the northern parts of South Sudan transport and communication help both sides to connect, exchange their trade items, develop their livelihood and create good peaceful relations (Renk- Nyala-Wau roads).

    Effective Governance

    For implementing the forwarded suggested policies it is crucial to have effective government machinery at both sides of the boarder states in the Savannah Belt and South Sudan as well. To achieve this, both Juba and Khartoum should consider their policies on this regard. Without strong and capable state government institutions in both sides, the conditions in these areas such as policies and programs will not be implemented effectively.

    Common Projects

    Both areas of North and South Sudan states and the Savannah Belt in Sudan are very rich       
    In natural resources, minerals and animal wealth; joint projects for the benefit of all partners are very essential to build mutual grounds for trust, confidence and peace.

    Supporting Projects

    Education in the area must be oriented to help identity and the heritage of the people in both sides’ .Local languages, dialect, etc are essential to ease contracts between the different components. It equally generates self-respect and understanding research priorities should be directed towards the problems of the communities and how to harmonize their interests, etc. Tribal gatherings and common festivals are very helpful for social respect. Finally creation of civil society organizations is important to promote local activities and traditional concepts of cooperation and self-help.

    Security Relations

    The third and last paper was on, “Security Relations between Sudan and South Sudan”, by Prof. Al Tayib Zainalabdin. In short the paper focused on.

    The concept of “security relations” between the two countries should be taken in a wide sense to cover governance, the states and society. It is the only way to achieve the two stated principles at the outset of the Cooperation Agreement signed by the two presidents (27 Sept.2012) in Addis Ababa;
    1. Recognising their historical and abiding connections, the Parties recommit themselves to the overriding principles of establishing Sudan and South Sudan as two viable states, stable, secure and at peace with each other and their neighbours.
    2. The Parties shall cooperate across the range of areas of common interest, in order to build two viable states. They shall adopt the necessary policies and arrangements to strengthen their cooperation.
    Another principle was; “In order to establish peaceful relations the two parties commit themselves to respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. They shall ensure the full implementation of the 9 Agreements relating to their common security they have entered into and which include 9 Agreements.
    The parties further committed themselves to implement the other 8 agreements concerning the outstanding issues which were not settled earlier ; oil, status of nationals of the other state, border issues, central banking issues, trade, assets and liabilities, post-service benefits and security arrangements. They promised that the said agreements shall enter into force immediately upon ratification by the national assembly of each state. In the agreement on the border issues, the two parties confirm that they shall maintain a peaceful, safe and secure border, along which economic activity and social interactions can flourish and across which people can move, and goods and services can flow easily.
    The above agreements which have been willingly reached by both parties, under the supervision and encouragement of the world community are fait, comprehensive and clearly detailed. Further, they are beneficial for both countries. The presidents of the two states who supervised over the negotiations and signed the agreements promised to implement them immediately. However, that has not happened. The question is why? I believe that the reasons behind this illogical outcome are the following:

    A. The two parties cannot easily forget the hatred and savageness of the long civil war, between the Sudanese army and rebel movements in Southern Sudan that marred their relationship and made mutual understanding and reconciliation difficult to achieve.
    B. The painful experience of war sowed deep lack of confidence and mistrust between the two antagonistic parties. Thus, each party assumes the worst in dealing with the other. Making peace after a long conflict requires taking risks and looking forward in hope.
    C. Both governments are of military background that believes in military solutions rather than political ones.
    D. Although the two governments are weak and face many internal security problems, but   each of them believe that the other party is weaker than itself and it can be toppled if the armed opposition against it is given some support.
    E. In each camp there are individuals and groups, inside the government and outside, who are ideologically against the other party; they take extreme positions and do influence official decisions.

    Abyei Area

    The most difficult security problems are: the Referendum on self-determination of Abyei Area, the status of the five disputed regions on the border and urgent problem of the cessation of harboring or supporting rebel groups against the other states. The first two problems will take sometimes and require a political settlement rather than a legal one. The third one requires are immediate action especially on the part of South Sudan because the Sudanese Revolutionary Front has become part of a real threat to the stability and unity of Sudan. An African team investigating the distribution of small arms in Africa found evidence that each government has actually supplied arms to rebel groups in the other country. Hopefully, the latest mediation of the AUHIP, on the problem between the two governments, will activate the withdrawal of the two armies from the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone, the work of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mission and the Joint Political and Security Mechanism to settle this question for good.

    The Future

    Once those thorny problems have been sorted out, I believe that relations between the two countries will improve and develop in a peaceful way because it is in the interest of both countries to maintain good relationship. I hope that the coming visit of Salva Kiir to Khartoum by the end of this month will solve some of these problems so that we can progress along the way of cooperation and development.
    The real guarantor of good relationship between the two countries is the expressed public opinion and will in both countries supporting that kind of relationship. The people in both countries will be inclined to support strong relationship if the feel that it will bring them the advantages of economic benefits, social integration and cultural interaction.

    Brotherhood Society

    He concluded his paper by:
    We, in the Sudanese Brotherhood Society-North & South, work purposely to realize that objective. Our aims are the following: to develop and strengthen the relations of mutual understanding, friendship and cooperation between the people of Sudan and South Sudan; to contribute to fruitful relations and close cooperation in the areas of economic, social and cultural fields; to encourage popular initiatives in seeking peaceful and political solutions to common problems; to work together with similar organizations in the areas of humanitarian aid, environment hazards and support of border regions. We wish to have a partner society in South Sudan to work with it in order to achieve the same goals. Hopefully, the media people with whom we worked in Nairobi and Khartoum will accept the challenges to start such an organization.

    By Alula Berhe Kidani and Photo: Alsir Mukhtar
    (Sudan Vision Daily)

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