7 June 2014

South Sudan: Juba Protests Rebels' Press Conference in Khartoum

Khartoum — South Sudan's embassy in Khartoum has protested a press conference held by a visiting delegation of the rebel SPLM-In-Opposition in the Sudanese capital, saying it breaches existing bilateral agreements.

SPLM-IN-Opposition spokesperson,Yohanis Musa Pouk , who is part of the rebel delegation visiting Khartoum to prepare for the expected visit into the country by their leader Riek Machar, held media briefing largely covered by Sudanese media on Thursday.

Pouk blamed Khartoum for its refusal to support them arguing they have the same enemy, Uganda, which is backing the South Sudanese army (SPLA).

He added that Kampala was now fighting against Machar and alleged that Ugandans through their support to Sudanese rebel groups plan to attack Bashir's regime in future.

He further said they can attack and control oil production areas in Upper Nile state, but their leader Machar, fearing that fighting damage oil installations, stopped their progress towards the oil fields located near the Sudanese border.

Reacting to the presence of the rebel delegation, South Sudanese embassy in Khartoum released a statement on Saturday in protest against the rebel's press conference and described it a "clear violation of the Cooperation Agreement signed by the two countries".

The embassy's press secretary, Gabriel Deng said that allowing rebels to hold press conferences in Khartoum is inconsistent with the agreement between to two countries on the need cease hostile media and propaganda against each other.

"Even neighbouring countries have not been spared" from rebels' criticism, he added.

South Sudan's ministry of foreign affairs on Friday urged the Kenyan government to "curtail" its contact with the country's armed opposition group in order to avoid creating "gaps in bilateral" ties.

The comments come after a group of Kenyan MPs criticised president Uhuru Kenyatta over what they described as a "red carpet" reception accorded to Machar during a six-day visit to the country last week

Machar was received by Kenyatta at the State House in the capital, Nairobi, where the two leaders reportedly discussed the way forward for South Sudan's peace process.

However, five Kenyan MPs protested over Kenyatta's decision to hold the meeting, describing it as an "insult" to South Sudanese president Salva Kiir.

The statement, which shows Juba's frustration form the diplomatic contacts staged by the SPLM-In Opposition with IGAD countries, comes as Machar is expected to visit Khartoum soon after his meeting with Salva Kiir on 9 June.

Sudanese officials declined to comment on the embassy's statement.

The foreign ministry in Khartoum last month accused South Sudan of allegedly using a Sudanese rebel group - Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) to fight the rebel SPLM-In-Opposition, saying their involvement confirms Juba's links to the Darfur rebel group.

Khartoum claims its neutrality in the ongoing conflict in South Sudan and takes part in the IGAD mediation to reach a peaceful settlement to the ongoing crisis.

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