Voice of America (Washington, DC)

20 April 2014

East Africa: South Sudan Urges Sudan to Stop Attacks By Armed Groups

South Sudan has urged Sudan to prevent armed groups - including rebels loyal to former vice president Riek Machar - from using its territory to launch attacks against the world's newest nation, according to Barnaba Mariel Benjamin, South Sudan's foreign minister.

Benjamin says ongoing communication between South Sudan President Salva Kiir and Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir will prevent the "enemies of peace and regional stability" from undermining the warming diplomatic relations between Juba and Khartoum.

"The government of the Republic of South Sudan is committed absolutely to a cooperation agreement, which actually forms the basis for improving relations between Sudan and South Sudan," said Benjamin.

"This agreement is very important because it guarantees the future of peace between the two countries," said Benjamin.

"Therefore, any moves that undermine this agreement is actually spoiling relations and making it difficult for the neighbors to move forward. This is why we [tell] the Republic of Sudan that allowing some of these Janjaweed and others to come into Unity State and cause havoc is unacceptable."

His comments come after South Sudan expressed concern that armed groups including the Janjaweed and the Messeriya cross the border into South Sudan to launch attacks on its citizens and oil fields.

But, Sudan denies the allegation, insisting that the government in Khartoum does not interfere in South Sudan's internal affairs.

Last week, rebels allied to former vice president Machar announced they had taken Bentiu, the capital of South Sudan's Unity State. Benjamin says the attacks came from people who are "enemies" of regional cohesion and good neighborliness.

"These are the people we are accusing of spoiling the relationship between the two countries. The attacks now come from the northern part of our country, and they come from the Republic of Sudan. That is why we are urging the Sudan government to be alert," he said.

Benjamin says his government will keep its commitment to continue improving diplomatic and bilateral relations with the government in Khartoum.

"We are doing everything in our power to improve that relationship. But, [it does not augur] allowing the Janjaweed and ethnic groups like the Messeriya, people well trained and well-armed, to come and attack our oil fields [and massacre citizens] in Unity State like what they did in Bentiu," said Benjamin.

"We are urging Sudan to check its side of the border in order to make sure that no hostile elements are allowed to come into South Sudan to cause havoc," he said.

Benjamin however says South Sudan has yet to officially petition Sudan to complain about the cross border attacks that he says come from its northern neighbor.

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