By Majok Nikodemo Arou Nyieth
October 16, 2012 (SSNA) — General consensus looms large in South Sudan, especially in the wake of signing of the Addis Ababa Cooperation Agreement that the negotiation team of the Republic of South Sudan (RSS) should review the negotiation strategy to address the hot remaining issues.
South Sudanese and observers worldwide feel the agreement is actually about the flow of the much-needed commodity, oil, which is badly needed by the two Sudans to keep their economies alive. However, the major issues of border demarcation and Abyie may put the real deal in a tough test if they remained unresolved.
To the chagrin of many South Sudanese, Khartoum has managed to turn the territories of South Sudan into the disputed areas, of which the last are Panthou/Heglig and The Mile 14. Since the two parties have agreed over the border as they stood on 01/01/1956 in accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the so called disputed areas should have been referred to legally as “the Occupied Territories”. Because when a South Sudanese citizen or a negotiator representing him/her called his occupied land as a disputed or a claimed one, then the territory in question is put in a doubt. So the legal term should be the Occupied Territories.
Experienced in international affairs, Khartoum lured the South Sudanese negotiators to reopen the issue of Abyie, whose verdict was issued in the Hague in 2009. The verdict clearly drew the borders of Abyie and stated who would vote in the referendum. Juba accepted the rule despite some reservations, while Khartoum accepted the verdict but reneged later as usual. Now it calls for the division of Abyie between Dinka Ngok and el-Miseriya. Tomorrow Khartoum will say no for the division and yes for the annexation of Abyie- a perennial brand camouflage tactic being adopted by Khartoum.
Regarding Panthou, Khartoum decided to annex it by 2004, but encountered the fierce resistance from its South Sudanese allies in Khartoum. In 2008, Khartoum exploited the Population Census, which was a requirement for the holding the referendum to annex Panthou and Majak Yeth (Kharsana). But with full focus on the referendum, Juba pledged to settle the issue of the occupied territories after the referendum.
Like the then Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS), the fledgling civil society and media in South Sudan did not give the issue of border demarcation its due out of a false belief that our Western allies know where the borders lie. Yes they may know, but they exercise the moral equivalence as described by Eric Reeves. Unfortunately, the mediators sometimes do not stick to the facts, but seek “compromises”!
Due to the experience in the international matters I referred to above, Khartoum now claims all the five areas, which all belong to South Sudan. It recently included the Mile 14. By doing so, Khartoum desperately eyes compromise, especially over Panthou. Hence, the Mile 14, south of the River Kiir, is another fresh bargaining chip after Kafia Kingi and Kaka for Khartoum
Notwithstanding South Sudan has the maps to substantiate its occupied territories. Juba needs what it takes to alert the civil society and media to educate the world about the actual map of South Sudan.
Instead of directing anger towards the negotiating team, our masses have to observe the following:
*the negotiating team should be encouraged to drop the phrase of disputed areas and use instead the phrase occupied territories. There is a sharp contrast between the words disputed and occupied, and
*the civil society and media should take up the issue of the occupied territories to back the negotiating team through establishing forums to address the issues of five occupied territories.
When dealing with foxes, you have to be one. It boggles the minds when Khartoum insists on our territories, Juba keeps saying with good faith no “they are our historic territories”. It is time to take the ball into Khartoum’s court by claiming their territories- no matter what. It is incomprehensive that Khartoum seeks compromise over the South Sudan territories, while Juba resists those claims in its own turf!
One believes our negotiating team did not compromise over the land. They have sacrificed their youth for the noble cause. So to bolster their position, our masses should not sit in the back seat, but come forward to let the international community hear their voices.
The author is a South Sudanese journalist and reachable at [email protected]