March 12, 2013 (SSNA) — South Sudan and Sudan renewed their pledges on 8 March 2013 to withdraw troops from the border. According to the AUHIP Chairman, Thebo Mbeki, 14 March 2013 is the D-Day, the final day to have completed the withdrawal. Agreeing to the principles on the establishment of verifications and monitoring mechanisms, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, had this to say through his spokesman (World Peace, 10 March 2013):
With this agreement, there should be no further conditions in the way of immediate implementation of the other signed 27 September agreements, including the agreement on oil.
Reiterating these sentiments, the media asserts that moving out of the buffer zone will “possibly open… the way to the resumption of oil exports from the south” (see Reuters, 8 March 2013).
And in marching lockstep, sources on the ground had also confirmed that the SPLA is preparing to pull out of the alleged contestedareas in Northern Bahr El Ghazal, among others.
Now in the face of these developments and despite hollow assurance from the AUHIP, South Sudan citizens in the border areas, especially the Northern Bahr el Ghazal civilians, remain strongly opposed to withdrawal without guarantees. We should all be concerned because Khartoum is always ahead of everyone in this game. Knowing that Khartoum is manipulative, calculating and prone to dishonoring agreements before the ink dries, it is imperative that South Sudan thinks everything through before committing colossal mistakes as it had done in the past.
Our plan B must be in place. The UN which is cheerleading the current negotiations is toothless; it has never been our fallback position.
Therefore, it is in this context that we viewed withdrawal from the 14 Mile Area as a mistake, leave alone including it in the 27 September Agreement in the first place and for accepting to leave the area when there are no guarantees that Khartoum will honor the agreements.
In summary, Juba must learn from the past mistakes of dealing with Sudan. First, Juba must demand that Khartoum withdraw its troop from the areas in question. Second, Juba must secure guarantees such that when South Sudan army moves out of border areas such as the 14 Mile Area, Khartoum does not have an incentive or maneuverability to move in and occupy the area indefinitely as it has done in Abyei since May 2011. Juba must take a leaf from the ages-long axiom: bitten once, twice shy.[Disclaimer: The Aweil-Today USA Media Team is a grassroots Aweil Community effort to sensitize the deceitful ways of Khartoum and to offer a counterargument to making an undisputed land such as the 14 Mile Area a disputed one]