1 December 2012

South Sudan: U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan Visits Aweil North After Air Attacks By Sudan

Juba — The United States Ambassador to South Sudan, Susan Page, paid an official visit to Gokmachar, the administrative headquarters of Aweil North County, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, on Friday.

The visit took place after reports of aerial bombardments carried out by Sudanese warplanes in Kiir Adem from 20-22 November where seven civilians were killed, according to the local authorities.

Page, who spent the night in Aweil town, the Northern Bahr el Ghazal State capital, held talks with government officials and became one of the first senior foreign diplomat to visit the area.

Members of civil society organizations and youth groups peacefully demonstrated on 27 November in Aweil and Juba, to protestagainst aerial bombardments in the state.

No official statement has been made about what Page discussed with the state government though some officials claimed she expressed her concerns with situation of people displaced by the bombing.

An official from the state administration told Sudan Tribune on Saturday that Page visited Gok Machar and later met with the Governor, key government officials and MPs.

South Sudan accused the Sudanese army of violating its territorial sovereignty and the Cooperation Agreement the two sides signed in September, which was supposed to create a demilitarised buffer zone along their contested border.

Under the deal both sides also agreed to to cease hostilities including support proxy armed forces and aerial bombardments.

Khartoum has denied bombing South Sudan, instead claiming that it has only attacked rebel positions north of the contentious Mile 14 area.

The inclusion of Mile 14 in the yet-to-be-established buffer zone has proven deeply unpopular in North Bahr el Ghazal despite the position of the border on which the demilitarised not prejudging where the final border will be drawn.

Governor Paul Malong Awan, who has been especially critical of Mile 14's inclusion in the buffer zone, accompanied Ambassador Page to Aweil North, the scene of the alleged bombing to meet Kuol Athuai Hal, the County Commissioner and various other groups.

Commissioner Hal told Sudan Tribune on Friday: "The American ambassador to South Sudan came today with our governor. The ambassador held lots of meetings with different groups. She held meeting with tribal leaders from both Rizeigat and Dinka Malual communities. She also held meetings with women group and inaugurated an office built with funds from the government of United States".

The Ambassador expressed her happiness about the way she was received and assured her country's to assist Sudan and South Sudan reach a peaceful settlement on the remaining outstanding issues in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, Hal said. He added that Page had asked local leaders to accept living peacefully with their neighbours.

The Chairperson of the South Sudan Civil Society Alliance, Deng Athuai Mawiir, commended Ambassador Page for the visit and called on the international community to step up pressure to resolve pending issues between the North and South and also support the flow of oil again.

Khartoum has insisted that the security elements of the deal must be fulfilled before oil exports through its territory can resume. South Sudan's President has said, however, that Sudan has added "impossible" demands to what had previously been agreed in Addis Ababa.

"The people of South Sudan, especially the Malual Dinka of Northern Bahr el Ghazal are of course not happy with the global community because they have not heard from them even a single word of condolence and statement of condemnation of aerial bombardment by Sudan," he said.

He blamed the international community for being silent over the attack saying "they have decided to keep quiet as if they have not heard about aerial bombardments in which seven people were killed and eight others were wounded. They were all innocent civilians," Mawiir said in an interview with Sudan Tribune on Friday.

The activist called on international community to intervene in the conflict and allow resumption of South Sudanese oil to be exported to the international markets through Sudan to rescue the people from the "economic crisis" in both countries.

Khartoum refuses the resumption of South Sudanese exportation though its pinpeline demanding Juba to stop its support to the SPLM-North fighters and to disarm them.

Mayuol Diing Mayuol, Secretary General of South Sudan's governing Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) Youth League in Northern Bahr El Ghazal also welcomed the visit US ambassador to the area.

Mayuol said the visit had answered their call for international community particularly, the UN, AU and EU "to urgently send an independent fact finding team of border experts from different countries to [the] Kiir Adem area so that they verify facts on the ground and to see the damage caused by the attack on the area".

The SPLM local official further said Sudan had lied to the international community by claiming to be pursuing its rebels and that it only bombed 10 kilometers north of Kiir River on Saturday 24th November 2012.

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