President Kiir's visit to Khartoum could be better described as fruitful because the two heads of states were able to remove accumulated past obstacles during their one-hour meeting, followed by separate meetings of ministers in both countries with their counterparts to handle issued concerning their respective ministries.
The final results carried good tidings for the peoples of the two countries as their leaders pledged to turn over a new leaf regarding the settlement of outstanding issues bilaterally away from conspiracies and foreign interventions or assistance.
Salva Kiir's arrival in the capital Khartoum wasn't a mere traditional matter; rather it was his second official visit to the country since secession. The visit was aimed at resolving thorny issues South Sudan has gone through in the aftermath of its impendence.
President Al Bashir accompanied by Bakri Hassan Saleh, the Minister of the Presidency, Ali Karti, the Minister of Foreign Affairs , and Dr. Awad Al-Jaz, the Minister of Petroleum where at the airport to receive Salva Kiir and his accompanying delegation. While saluting the Republic Guards, Kiir bowed the Sudanese flag, an indication that Mr. Kiir was serious this time to end all outstanding issues without exception.
Upon his arrival Silva Kiir and his Sudanese counterpart headed to the Friendship Hall, where the president held a meeting behind closed doors. During the summit, President Al-Bashir expressed appreciation for Kiir's for immediate response to the invitation. He stressed his country’s respect for all agreements with South Sudan and commitment to carry them through in a spirit of responsibility and political will, announcing that that his government is serious to leave behind past setbacks and open up for the better future the people of the two states. Al Bashir further stressed that Sudan and South Sudan are able to transcend their differences and overcome obstacles to implementing agreements between them, adding that the countries are approaching a new stage, which requires serious cooperation. He commended the African Mechanism’s role in removing obstacles, calling for cooperation with the mechanism by both parties in respect of suggestions presented by the Head of the Mechanism, former South Africa's president, Mr. Thabo Mbeki, who called for specifying the zero line between the two countries and refrain from supporting harboring rebel groups in both sides as soon as possible. The proposal underscored the importance of specifying the zero line for security and trade exchange, the flow of South Sudan’s oil and mobility of nomads across common borders, stressing that refraining from accommodating and supporting rebellion in both sides is the key to restoring confidence between the two parties.
Al Bashir said dispute over the region of Abyei could only be settled through reaching a solution satisfactory to the parties in order to ensure peaceful coexistence among local communities. The president urged for redoubling efforts to establish transitional civil institutions to pave the way for a radical settlement to the dispute. Al Bashir called for speedy demarcation of agreed upon borders in accordance with a mutual cooperation agreement signed between the two countries; working together for facilitating the mission of the African experts team with regard to disputed regions.
For his part, President Kiir expressed his appreciation for Al Bashir's invitation and the warm welcome he received when he arrived in Khartoum. "I came to Khartoum in good faith to debate pending issues and open a new leaf to carry out all agreements," he said, reiterating his country's commitment to the mutual cooperation agreement signed earlier between the two countries in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa. Kiir stressed the significance of joint meetings between the two sides, especially at ministerial levels, affirming that he and Al Bashir will honor their words.
However, the Southern Sudanese president categorically denied backing Sudanese rebels and demanded Sudanese authorizes to present any evidence to him personally to enable him to take appropriate measures to avert the countries rhetoric or state of war. "The comprehensive peace agreement settled this issue and was also solved according to the ruling of The Hague court," Kiir said in a reference to the disputed oil-rich region of Abyei. As for border demarcation, he called for necessity to listen to the African Union Experts Panel, pointing to efforts his country is making to support Sudanese businesspersons in South Sudan.
Kiir held separate meetings with leaders of Umma party, Al-Imam Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi, Popular Congress, Dr. Hassan Al-Turabi, Unionist party (the Original), Mohamed Osman Al-Merghani, and Sudanese Communist party, Mukhtar Al-Khatib, as representative of political parties.
Following a meeting with Kiir, the National Umma party called in a statement for implementation of what was agreed with reluctance in favor of the two nations. The statement also called for developing cooperative relations and full twining in all political, economic and social fields; in addition to expanding the scope of cooperation, and boosting popular diplomacy to further cement deeply-rooted and historical relations between Sudanese and Southern Sudanese people.
The statement also demanded exclusion of the issues of oil, trade and the four freedoms from political wrangling bickering. The Umma party "calls for honoring security agreements and referring any difference to the agreed upon African mechanism away from taking unilateral actions so the countries do not slip into another war," the statement reads.
"I am more optimistic about your destiny – all of the people of Sudan; especially the people in the two countries have realized that they further connected than ever before," the Popular Congress party leader Hassan Al-Turabi said.
The final communiqué, which was read by Ambassador Charles Mayang in Arabic, and Ambassador Rahmatallah Mohamed Osman in English, stressed that all obstacles should be removed to the pave the way for carrying through mutual cooperation agreement and activating joint mechanisms and committees. In the communiqué the two sides agreed to address the international community to support the African mechanism, write off Sudan's debts and support development in both countries. The two sides agreed to maintain constructive dialogue in order to arrive at settlement to remaining issues, including Abyei and demarcation of borders.
By Hana Abdul Hana
(Sudan Vision Daily)