, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 13 – South Sudan now says it is ready to withdraw its forces from the contested Heglig area, but on condition that the United Nations deploys a neutral force in all contested areas.
Pagan Amum, Chief Negotiator of the Government of the Republic of South Sudan told journalists in Nairobi that the only logical solution to the crisis was for the parties to go for international arbitration.
He accused Khartoum of continuing to use the contested Heglig area to launch attacks on the south. He said that South Sudan took over Heglig in order to prevent the Sudanese army from organising attacks from there.
“We are ready to recall our forces and Sudan should as well but only if the United Nations commits to deploying neutral forces to Heglig which will take over the management of the disputed areas until a settlement between the two parties is reached,” said Amum.
He argued that none of the parties to the conflict could lay legal claim to the Heglig area as there had not been an official process of demarcating the border.
Amum said that the international community had remained silent while Sudan continued to commit atrocities to the people of Southern Sudan.
“When Southern Sudan has been bombed what has the UN Security Council said? What has the African union said? Is it that they are used to Bashir bombing and killing people?” he lamented pointing out that there had been at least 60 aerial bombardments in the south.
He defended his South Sudan nation saying that they had done so much to ensure that hostilities are ceased and particularly near the border and accused Sudan of continued provocation.
“Our President (Salva Kiir) invited Bashir for a summit and at the last minute he declined, the very day there were aerial bombardments in South Sudan,” he explained adding that representatives of Sudan had last week refused to sign an agreement by the African Union High Implementation Panel chaired by Thabo Mbeki.
Amum who is the Secretary General of the Sudanese People Liberation Movement reiterated that the Southern Sudanese army is well experienced in liberation wars but wanted to pursue the option of peace.
“Our army is a seasoned army, a people’s army made up of volunteers, we have tasted war for decades and we are not ready to go back, the reason we went to war was that were oppressed and now that we are free we want peace,” he emphasised.
Amum who was accompanied by Ezekiel Lol, South Sudan Ambassador to the United States said that his country had suffered huge losses after it stopped pumping oil in January in a row over transit fees and an accusation of Sudan of stealing its oil.
South Sudan took most of the oil fields when it seceded from Sudan last July and has insisted that it was unwilling to pay what it termed as ‘overly exaggerated’ transit fees.
The UN Security Council has called for an immediate and unconditional end to fighting on Sudan’s southern border expressing its “deep and growing alarm” over the “escalating conflict.