Who will have the final word over the “Mile 14 Area”!

By: Justin Ambago Ramba

October 25, 2012 (SSNA) — Following the 27th September agreement we have all known that things in Juba deteriorated immediately making already bad situation to become worse. Politicians and citizens went bananas, especially so the elected Governor of Northern Bahr Ghazal (Aweil) who came out openly to denounce the inclusion of the “Mile 14 Area” within the would be demilitarized zone along the ill-defined border between South Sudan and the Sudan. This marks a new chapter in the Arab encroachment on the Black African indigenous population’s lands. This is a historical phenomenon in which the Black Africans have to continuously recede land and allow the movement of the Arab borders further south into the interior!

In the different Media Outlets, many South Sudanese have also expressed their disappointments on the different parts of the Salva Kiir – Al Bashir Cooperation Agreement, each in their own styles. But the bottom line is that those opposed to the agreement (Totally or partially) saw in it a clear sell-out by Salva Kiir’s administration since it has gone both politically and socio-economically bankrupt as a result of the poor leadership and widespread corruption.

On the other hand, President Salva Kiir and his Defense Minister wasted no time and rushed to Uganda to seek a long time ally’s advice none other than President Musseveni of Uganda who knows too well that underneath the New Two Sudans Accord lies a disaster for the entire region.  However, at this stage the embattled Truce at its face value definitely remains a Sudanese baby (shared responsibility between Juba and Khartoum) until proved otherwise. But considering the historical bumpy relationship that has existed between the two sides which stretches for well over a century, honouring of agreements in this part of the world is a thing hard to expect.

What followed in the two countries parliaments came as no surprise to anyone. It wasn’t and still isn’t a thing that warrants anyone to be a genius to know in advance the positions of those MPs when it comes to  endorsement of the government-led policies or agreements. The September Cooperation Agreement wasn’t any different and therefore, it was easily ratified by both the SPLM-dominated parliament in Juba and its counterpart in Omdurman.  Both institutions are identical in their compositions and function in a similar way,  for both were created to rubber- stamped the parties’ policies.

But what surprised people including  many members of the  foreign diplomatic  missions is that those who took to the streets   as well as those who voiced their opposition to the Agreement either in the Media or otherwise are predominantly from the country’s northern front-line. This came as a shock to many given the fact that almost all those who by design represent the SPLM delegation to all the talks in Addis Ababa actually hail from these areas. Things obviously went this way, because the SPLM leadership has taken to the habit of taking the citizens for granted. And the fact that until now they are unable to successfully communicate the SPLM/NCP Cooperation Agreement to their home constituencies does speak loads.

However, the worrying development is no other but Governor Paul Malong Awan of Northern Bahr Ghazal’s  position on the embattled September’s Cooperation Agreement.  The defiant Governor came out very strongly right from the outset against   the inclusion of the “14 Mile Area” in the would be demilitarized buffer zone between the two nations.  The Governor’s position is also supported by many citizens from the Northern Bahr al Ghazal when they demonstrated in the streets of Juba.

But now that the country’s parliament has ratified the Cooperation Agreement in spite of the stern opposition from MPs from Northern Bahr al Ghazal State leaves some citizens and politicians with bitter tastes in their mouths. It also proves the point that the ruling party which holds 99.9% of the MP seats has gone to widen the ethnic and regional rift within the SPLM and the country at large.

Things didn’t end there as Governor Paul Malong Awan came back again very strongly and I quote:

“The Governor of South Sudan’s Northern Bahr El Ghazal on Monday said that he will "fight" anyone who tries to take from his state a contested area on the border with neighboring Sudan”.   (Sudan Tribune 22/10/12)

“We will fight the person who will take our land and the person who will give our land." Governor Malong Awan stressed.

The above strong statements from the Governor will obviously raise eyebrows worldwide, but more so in New York and Addis Ababa. This is so because the issue of “Mile 14 Area” is now an integral part of the security arrangement between the governments of the two countries. Should the Governor go ahead to implement his threats then South Sudan will be witnessing the emergence of yet another armed opposition in Northern Bahr Ghazal.

However, the coming weeks will tell the rest of the story when the September Addis Ababa Cooperation Agreement moves to the implementation stage. As for now, the political atmosphere is gravid with so many uncertainties. With the UNSC’s Chapter Seven firmly held in the heads of President Salva Kiir and his counterpart President Al Bashir, all must abide with the African Union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP) brokered Agreement or risk the wrath of the International Community. At least this is  what the UN Security Council  resolution 2046 stands for.

Whichever way things go it is now clear that the new arrangements are about to consolidate the  Abyei Area and now joined by “Mile 14 Area” as political hot spots. Nonetheless,  the billion dollar question is : Who will have the final word over the “Mile 14 Area” given the huge discontent in Northern Bahr Ghazal State and especially so Governor Paul Malong Awan who seems to be ready  to physically or militarily resist the inclusion of “ Mile 14 Area” as part of this controversial  agreement?

Author: Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba, Secretary General of the United South Sudan Party (USSP). He can be reached at: [email protected] or [email protected]

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