opinionBy Samuel Taye
It is to be recalled that Sudan and South Sudan signed a long-awaited cooperation agreement in September in Addis Ababa which comprises six agreements-social and political issues, mainly on oil, trade and security mediated by African Union High level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) headed by Thabo Mbeki, former president of South Africa.
Following the agreement the demilitarization of the border area is supposed to pave the way for trade to resume between South Sudan and Sudan, and is likely to improve food security and lower prices especially in border areas many anticipate. The resumption of oil production will kick-start South Sudan's food security and struggling economy, and strengthen people's purchasing power. According to certain views, the protocol provides vital elements in building a strong foundation for a stable and prosperous future of the two countries.
Resuming cross-border trade, resuming oil production, allowing citizens from each side to move freely, among others, were the issues reached on agreement.
However, some political analysts say the two sides have signed tremendous deals so far many of which had not been taken effect because of mutual mistrust. For instance, resuming oil production an issue that had been previously covered, with a deal reached in August has not yet implemented. "This basically kicks the can down the road," said EJ Hogendoorn, the Horn of Africa director for the International Crisis Group, a conflict-prevention organization.
Ambassadors of both governments to Ethiopia, however, do not agree with Hogendoorn's view saying the recent deals are fundamental and very essential for the healthy and sustainable economies of both, peace and stability within and between the two countries. The ambassadors reflect their governments' commitment for the implementation of the agreements to keep their people's interest as the settlements are completely connected with the well-being of the people.
Sudanese Ambassador to Ethiopia General Abdelrahman Sirelkhatim told The Ethiopian Herald that the September agreement was historical and it was a win-win settlement for both countries.
"The negotiation was wearisome as we continued for about a decade to agree on pending issues before and since the secession of the South Sudan. The Sudan is committed enough to the full implementation of the agreements, and for further agreements to be reached on unresolved issues including the status of Abyei and at least five other disputed areas. The position of Sudan is clear that the issue of Abyei will be treated according to Abyei protocol which is freeing Abyei area from armed forces of both and Khartoum has started implementing it, no police or military force is there now. The civil administration taking place in that area contributed from both governments," said Abdelrahman.
He also refuted the view that says the September cooperation deal came up far short since the issue of Abyei is left unsolved. Though the agreement signed on oil production is believed to give both governments some breathing room for their economies, it would be difficult unless there is a resolution to Abyei conflict, according to analysts.
Ambassador Abdelrahman, however, said that there is no link between the cooperation agreements and the status of Abyei. "The case of Abyei will not affect what we have agreed up on, now we are engaged in the implementation of the protocol and concurrently we are negotiating Abyei though it is a pending issue," he added.
The South Sudan Ambassador to Ethiopia Arop Deng Kuol on his part told the Herald that the Addis Ababa agreements can magnificently ease social and political challenges of both countries if fully implemented.
According to him, both countries experienced a devastating war since 1955, the longest African war. Since then to date, a number of settlements were signed while many were left unimplemented for certain reasons; however, the recent agreements are multifaceted and reflect more of mutual benefit that the two need to put into practice.
"We have signed on six various issues but signing is not a problem, its implementation matters. Previously we signed many protocols in principle while challenges vividly observed on bringing them into effect. Some of the September agreements were the part of the 2005 comprehensive agreement. Unless the two countries are keenly ready to demarcate the border, all the agreements would not be guaranteed. We, therefore, are optimistic about some signed deals and we may not be about the others from experience," said Arop.
As to Ambassador Arop, the agreement reached in August on oil production has been ratified by the parliament and President Kiir ordered the ministry of Petroleum to work with foreign companies on oil production, thus the initial phase of the project has already been in place.
Nonetheless, both countries' position on the issue of Abyei seems slightly different though they believe the referendum will ease the tension. Khartoum accepted the proposal presented by the panel in principle regarding the referendum. But certain reservations are in place - who is eligible to vote for the referendum?, the date and duration of the referendum, among others. Yet, Juba needs the referendum to proceed in accordance with the Abyei protocol.
Both ambassadors laud the glaring role of Ethiopia particularly the ultimate effort of the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi for today's peace deals of the two Sudans. They also said it would have been impossible for them to sign the deal without the joint efforts of African Union, the international community and other partners.
The protocol is indeed all about reciprocal security arrangements, economic arrangements, treatment of each others nationals, the demarcation of the common border and the resolution of border disputes, ensuring the political boundary between the two states so that both should react trustfully for the sake of peace and instability of the Horn in general and for the sake of development, peace and security seeking people of the two countries.