JUBA, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) — The ongoing efforts by South Sudan President Salva Kiir to broker peace between the newly formed Sudanese government and opposition groups allied to Juba heralds a new era of normalization of ties between two former civil war foes, experts said.
The Sudanese peace talks commenced on Monday in Juba and concluded Wednesday with a peace road map that will see the parties resume official talks on Oct. 14.
The talks aim to end conflicts in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions in the aftermath of an earlier ceasefire deal reached between the parties.
They also aim to include these opposition groups in the transitional government formed in July by the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the opposition Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC).
Mohamed Hamdan Daqlu, military general and deputy head of TMC led a high-level delegation from the ruling Sovereign Council and met with these rebel groups under Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) headed by El Hadi Idris of the Sudan Liberation Movement-Transitional Council (SLM-TC).
These rebel groups which include the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North sector (SPLM/A-N) under Malik Agar, Justice Equality Movement (JEM) under Jibril Ibrahim, Democratic Union Party led by Eltom Hajou, Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM-MM) under Minni Minnawi fought against former Sudanese president Omar-Al Bashir.
James Okuk, lecturer of political science at University of Juba, said that the latest development pointed at normalizing relations between the two countries.
“These are politicians who want to make maximum gain out of the situation in each other’s country. Juba wants to see that their friends and favorites are getting power and in key positions in Khartoum so that they do not fear any regime change here,” said Okuk.
He disclosed that Juba wants to take advantage of the current transition in Khartoum in the wake of the ouster of Al-Bashir in April.
“The new government in Sudan also wants to take advantage of Juba. Juba is struggling to implement the peace agreement and Riek Machar is sitting in Khartoum and he is key to the implementation of the (peace) agreement,” said Okuk.
Machar, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In-Opposition (SPLM-IO) leader who has been under house arrest since 2016 visited Juba on Monday where he met President Kiir accompanied by Daqlu.
“So, they are bringing him here (Machar) and say, look he is our friend and we want him to come and work with you in your government, and while he is here, we are sure that nobody will do subversive activities against us in Khartoum. These are some of the give and take issues,” said Okuk.
Okuk disclosed that the international community was keenly monitoring the Sudanese talks and peace implementation process in Juba, where Machar will return in November to take up one of the four vice presidency posts under the 2018 revitalized peace deal signed in Ethiopia.
He said that South Sudan needs peace more than anything and that the international community will avail much needed support to Kiir’s administration when the parties commit to full implementation of the peace deal.
Jacob Dut Chol, a professor of politics at University of Juba, said both Sudan and South Sudan have realized that peace and security are intertwined and have no other option than to normalize relations.
“The Sudanese government has come to realize that normalizing relations with South Sudan will help bring peace and stability to both countries,” said Chol.
The two countries in the past accused each other of backing rebels fighting in each other’s territories.
“It’s a good gesture by president Kiir because he is trying to say that I don’t want to be blamed that I have not done my part, because if you don’t do that and the rebels are now in Juba, the new Sudanese government will accuse Juba of harboring rebels,” said Chol.
Chol disclosed that normalizing relations is key to settling unresolved post-secession contentious issues that include debt owed to Sudan by Juba, and demarcation of the common border.
Simon Atem, a Juba-based political analyst said that peace mediation efforts by President Kiir pointed at beginning of rapprochement between the two countries after South Sudan won independence from Sudan in 2011.
“This is a sign of opening a new era of relations between South Sudan and Sudan following the ouster former longtime Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir,” said Atem.
“Juba has leverage over these rebel groups because many of these rebel leaders like Yasir Armani, Abdel Aziz Al-Hilu and Malik Agar fought alongside the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in South Sudan during the long decades of civil war in Sudan,” he added.
Atem added that improved relations between the two neighbors help to further boost South Sudan’s ongoing efforts to increase oil production in its northern oil fields from the current 175,000 barrels a day (bpd) to pre-war levels of about 350,000 bpd.
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