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Sudan’s President pledges support to South Sudanese leader as violence continues

Waakhe Simon
The Sudanese President on Monday threw his weight behind his South Sudanese counterpart, following three weeks of violence in the world’s youngest nation.
7.01.2014  |  Juba
South Sudanese Cabinet Ministers receive Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir at Juba International Airport on Monday, January 6.
South Sudanese Cabinet Ministers receive Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir at Juba International Airport on Monday, January 6.

Omar Hassan al-Bashir visited Juba and held almost an hour closed-door talk meeting with South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit.
There should be peace and security in South Sudan,” said Bashir, whose regime fought over two decades of civil war with South Sudan that ended in 2005, after the meeting.

Speaking to the press at Kiir’s Presidential Palace, J-One, he underlined the importance of the bi-lateral bond. We come so that we see what we can do […] so that we bring peace to our brothers and sisters in South Sudan,” Bashir said.

Omar Hassan al-Bashir in Juba, Monday, January 6.
© The Niles | Waakhe Simon Wudu
He said many” South Sudanese displaced by the recent crisis have sought refuge in Sudan. He pledged he would protect these refugees and would give them access to basic services.

Kiir welcomed Bashir’s visit, saying it reveals his concern about South Sudan” and confirms our strong relations”.

South Sudan’s three-week spate of violence spread fast following an alleged coup attempt on December 15, last year. Although the attempted coup was refuted by Riek Machar, Kiir’s political rival, troops loyal to Machar have battled government forces in five of the country’s ten states, including Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei states.

The United Nations estimates that around 200,000 people have been displaced. Over 1,000 have died so far in the violent conflict.

Since the outbreak of clashes, Bashir is the forth Head of State to visit South Sudan, following the Ethiopian Prime Minister and the Kenyan and Ugandan presidents.
Government and rebel delegations convened in Addis Ababa for peace talks. Despite their expressions of support for a ceasefire, heavy fighting has continued to rock two of the country’s states: Jonglei and Unity states.

SPLA Spokesman Philip Aguer said the SPLA and the rebels are locked in four days of heavy fighting around Bor capital of Jonglei State, which was seized by the rebels on December 31, 2013.

As we talk right now the White Army is withdrawing back.”
Philip Aguer
In Jonglei, our forces are fighting the White Army. And it is just a matter of time [before the SPLA will reach Bor],” Aguer told the press in Juba. As we talk right now the White Army is withdrawing back. They realise they are fighting a war which will not benefit them.”

Aguer said the SPLA and the rebels are currently clashing in Pariak [about 15 kilometres from Bor]. Our forces are advancing towards Bor,” Aguer added.

He said on Saturday the SPLA managed to flush out rebels who launched attack at Adar oil fields in Unity State. He also said SPLA are advancing from the northern part of Bentiu to recapture the town since seized by the rebels.

Bashir’s visit came against a backdrop of scant progress at the peace talks between South Sudan government delegation and rebels loyal to Riek Machar.
The convention of the talks came following mediated efforts of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to end the hostilities between the warring parties. The delegations have started face-to-face talks.

Progress remains slow as President Kiir had earlier on insisted on unconditional talks with the rebels while his opponents demanded release of 11 senior politicians currently in detention in Juba on allegations that they were behind the foiled coup attempt.

We still remain committed to that principle [unconditional talks].”
Salva Kiir
We still remain committed to that principle [unconditional talks],” Kiir told the press in Juba. If that thing [respect on unconditional talks] is not seriously adhered to by the mediators then they will not find a solution,” Kiir added.

Observers have expressed concern over deteriorating political and humanitarian conditions in the country as the crisis escalated. Humanitarian aid agencies cannot access the thousands of displaced persons and many roads are blocked.

The government on Sunday said it cannot allow aid agencies to travel to rebel controlled areas of Bor and Unity State, putting civilians at risk of a lack of basic provisions.

Meanwhile, the US Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the peace talks but stressed they must commit to the talks.

Both parties need to put the interests of South Sudan above their own,” Kerry told reporters in Jerusalem reported the AFP. The beginning of direct talks is a very important step, but make no mistake it is only the first step. There is a lot more to do.”

Negotiations have to be serious, they cannot be a delay, (a) gimmick in order to continue the fighting and try to find advantage on the ground at the expense of South Sudan,” added Kerry.