South Sudan still prefers dialogue to settle disputes with Sudan
JUBA (April 18, 2012) – South Sudan extended peace feelers to Sudan on Wednesday, saying that it was ready to return to the negotiating table to discuss and settle all outstanding post-independence issues with the Sudan despite its irritation at Khartoum’s violent behavior towards South Sudan.
“The people of South Sudan want peace, but they want Sudan to respect our sovereignty,” Secretary General of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM) and South Sudan’s Chief Negotiator in negotiations with Sudan, Cde Pagan Amum declared.
He was addressing a gathering of hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese protesters who had flocked to the Dr. John Garang Mausoleum to express support for President Salva Kiir’s decision not to pull out troops from Panthou (Heglig) and to denounce Sudan’s aggressions against the newly-independent country.
South Sudanese troops on April 10 repulsed air raids and ground attacks by Sudanese forces on their territory, chasing the invading Sudanese army all the way to Panthou (Heglig) and capturing the oil-rich town, which was under Sudanese occupation.
Sudan responded by breaking off talks on post-independent issues being mediated by the African Union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP) headed by former South African President Thabo Mbeki and intensifying its aerial bombardment of South Sudanese towns and villages.
Sudan’s parliament proceeded to brand South Sudan “an enemy state” and the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) of President Omar El-Bashir sent NCP mobs on the streets of Khartoum to attack South Sudanese and vandalize their property.
The Sudanese government also summarily dismissed some 130 South Sudanese cadets from the Police Academy in Khartoum, accusing them of celebrating the capture by South Sudanese forces of Panthou.
“We have shown our capacity to defend our land,” Cde Amum pointed out, adding that despite South Sudan’s battlefield victory, it remained committed to dialogue with Sudan.
“South Sudan is ready to return to the negotiations,” he explained.
Sudan claims that Panthou lies on its territory, but the SPLM recently produced evidence in the form of documents showing that Khartoum annexed the oil-rich area in 2004.
Cde Amum said South Sudan had no problem going for international arbitration on Panthou.
He reiterated that South Sudan wanted peace, but if Khartoum opted for war, “they will find our people ready to defend the land.”
The government of South Sudan also has a responsibility to defend the rights of the people of South Sudan and its territorial integrity and if push comes to shove, it will “use all means available at its disposal” to do just that, according to Cde Amum.
South Sudan’s ministers for Environment, Interior and Information and a representative from the youth and civil society also addressed the gathering.
Environment Minister Cde Alfred Lado Gore said if Sudan wanted war, perhaps the people should give it one. Interior Minister Alison Magaya called on the youth to be prepared to enlist to defend the homeland.
The youth and civil society said they would be glad to answer the call should the time come.