13 October 2012

Sudan: Al-Mahdi Calls for 'Sudanization' of Border Region Talks With South Sudan

Khartoum — The leader of the Sudanese opposition National Umma Party (NUP), Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, has urged the ruling parties of his country and neighboring South Sudan to involve opposition groups in their talks over disputed border regions, warning that exclusive negotiations will not produce a solution.

In comments he made on Friday to Turkey's state-owned Anadoul Agency, Al-Mahdi called for the "Sudanization" of efforts to resolve border disputes through the formation of a joint wiseman committee.

According to the veteran opposition figure, the continuation of the current method of exclusive negotiations between Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and its South Sudanese counterpart, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), under international mediation while excluding other political groups in the two countries represents "a failed solution."

Sudan and South Sudan currently contest six border regions along their common borders, the most prominent of which are Mile 14 area, a territory occupying 23 kilometers between Western Bahr El-Ghazal State in South Sudan and East Darfur State in Sudan, and the oil-producing region of Abyei.

The two countries recently signed a series of agreements on issues arising from South Sudan session last year, including the establishment of a buffer demilitarized zone along the unmarked 1800-km borders and resumption of South Sudan oil exports via Sudan, but they failed to resolve any of the border disputes.

The disputes are complicated by the fact that most of the contested regions are militarized zones of overlapping between tribal and ethnic groups belonging to each country and lobbying the governments to win the areas to their favors.

Al-Mahdi charged that the NCP is afraid that opposition parties, if included in the process, might claim political points from the agreements with South Sudan. He said that he wants both countries to accept his proposal of forming a joint wiseman committee to trash out border disputes.

In the proposal, Al-Mahdi suggests the committee to be composed of six people from each side to be selected from 18 nominees. He said that their task would be to contact all stakeholders and organize popular conferences for border tribes in order to gauge their position on the conflict.

The NUP leader warned that the sensitivity of border disputes stem from the fact that they involve influential tribes and should, therefore, be tackled separately and away from other issue.

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