KAMPALA, Aug 3 – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will highlight Washington’s concern over unresolved issues between Sudan and South Sudan during a visit Friday to the state born a year ago from the partition of Sudan.,
After spending the night in the Ugandan capital Kampala, Clinton was to head for South Sudan’s capital Juba, becoming the highest-ranking US official to visit the world’s newest nation since it became independent on July 9, 2011.
During her three-hour visit the top US diplomat will meet with President Salva Kiir, whose government has yet to agree on its border with the rump state of Sudan and settle a crippling dispute on oil fees.
The UN Security Council gave the two countries, which earlier this year came close to sliding back into all-out war, until August 2 to reach a deal or face sanctions. That deadline elapsed Thursday.
“We are encouraging both sides, South Sudan and Sudan, to effectively negotiate the differences between them,” said a high-ranking official from the US State Department.
Even while showing continued support to South Sudan Clinton “will express our continued concern about the lack of movement in the resolution of the key issues that divide the two countries”, the official said.
“These issues are oil and revenue sharing, citizenship, a disputed border,” the official added. “Both countries are experiencing economic dislocation.”
Fighting at the common border brought the two nations back to the brink of war in March and April.
“It is absolute important that South Sudan and Sudan move as quickly as possible to resolve these issues. That requires political leadership and engagement of the presidents of the two countries,” the official said.
“It requires them to negotiate regularly until these issues are finally resolved,” he went on. “Consequences are quite serious for both countries. Both are heavily dependent on oil for their revenue,” he said.
“Both countries are in a non-work spiral as a result of their political differences and as the result of the cut-off in oil… Our desire is to see all of these issues negotiated out.”
UN Security Council member countries this week stepped up pressure on Khartoum and Juba to reach a solution, all the more crucial given that the two neighbours are caught up in a downward economic spiral, the US official said, citing high inflation rates and an increase in oil and foodstuff prices.
Clinton arrived in Uganda Thursday to discuss regional security issues.
A high-ranking State Department official said Clinton would use the trip to Uganda — the second stop on her 11-day tour of seven African nations — to encourage President Yoweri Museveni to keep up the hunt for Joseph Kony, the leader of the bloody rebellion by the Lord’s Resistance Army.
The United States has 100 Special Forces troops on the ground in the region helping search for Kony, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and atrocities committed by the LRA.
Clinton is scheduled to meet Museveni on Friday and visit a military base where she will be briefed on the hunt for Kony and efforts to stamp out the Shebab Islamist militants in Somalia.
She will also visit a health centre and address human rights activists.
The State Department official said Clinton would compliment Museveni for his role in the fight against AIDS but encourage him to open up more space for democracy.
Clinton will also bring up the issue of human rights, particularly for the often persecuted gay and lesbian communities, the official said.
On her return from South Sudan, Clinton will pass back through Uganda, which is also in the midst of dealing with an outbreak of Ebola — one of the world’s most virulent diseases — that has already killed 15 people nationwide.
Clinton’s tour, which started in Senegal with warm praise for newly elected President Macky Sall, is focused on the Obama administration’s new Africa strategy of promoting development by stimulating economic growth, advancing peace and security and strengthening democracy.
Clinton has now visited 104 countries as secretary of state, more than any predecessor. She will also visit Kenya, Malawi and South Africa and finish her trip by attending the state funeral of Ghana’s late president John Atta Mills on August 10.