AU gives Sudan, South Sudan three months to sign deal
Wed Apr 25, 2012 11:45am GMT
* African Union says may adopt its own binding arbitration
* AU-brokered talks collapsed last month
* Juba accuses Khartoum of aerial bombardments
By Aaron Maasho
ADDIS ABABA, April 25 (Reuters) - The African Union has demanded Sudan and
South Sudan resume talks within two weeks, warning both that it would issue
its own binding rulings if they fail to strike deals on a string of disputes
within three months.
South Sudan accused Sudan on Tuesday of mounting air raids on the newly
independent country's oil-producing border region, after weeks of
cross-border fighting between the former civil war foes threatened to turn
into full-blown conflict.
The AU's Peace and Security Council (PSC) issued a seven-point roadmap late
on Tuesday that called on both sides to cease hostilities within 48 hours
and called for the "unconditional" withdrawal of troops from disputed areas.
The AU has spearheaded mediation efforts between the two foes in the past
with the backing of the United Nations, the United States and other major
powers. The U.N. Security Council said the AU's roadmap was a constructive
contribution and would inform its own consultations on further action.
Talks brokered by an AU panel (AUHIP) and led by former South African
President Thabo Mbeki collapsed last month after Khartoum asked for time to
review recommendations, before Juba briefly seized the disputed Heglig
The Addis Ababa-based bloc gave the two adversaries two weeks to resume
negotiations on a litany of disputes, including oil, the status of disputed
areas and the demarcation of their porous frontier.
The PSC "decides that these negotiations must be concluded within three
months of the adoption of this decision", said Ramtane Lamamra, the
He said that should the talks fail, the PSC would ask the AUHIP to submit
detailed proposals on all outstanding issues, so they could be endorsed as
final and binding solutions to post-secession relations.
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has said the latest hostilities amounted
to a declaration of war by Sudan.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has ruled out a return to talks with Juba,
saying the South's government only understands "the language of guns".
However, Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti said Khartoum was ready to
negotiate on "security issues". (Editing by David Clarke and Alistair Lyon)
BENTIU, South Sudan, April 25 (Reuters) - Gatkuoth Duop had bought new
shoes, drunk a cup of sweet tea and was preparing to go home when an MiG-29
fighter jet dropped a bomb on Rubkona market just across the river from
Bentiu in South Sudan.
The 12-year old boy was killed instantly, his scorched body contorted in
"I miss him very much because I lost my friend who normally plays with me
and goes to school with me. We played football together," said Duop's
friend, Jida Simon, who saw him die during the bombing on Monday.
Nestled in a savannah that has one of the largest oil deposits in South
Sudan, Bentiu town was a flash point for trouble throughout decades of civil
war between mainly Muslim north and the south, where most follow Christian
and animist beliefs.
The civil war ended with a peace agreement in 2005 but people in Unity
border state worry that repeated border clashes in the past three weeks will
erupt into all-out war, nine months after South Sudan became independent.
A few weeks ago Sudanese warplanes began bombing Bentiu, about 80 km (50
miles) from a contested border, residents say, as a dispute between the
former civil war foes over oil revenues and border demarcation finally
On Monday, Sudanese fighter jets dropped three bombs, according to residents
and military officials, killing at least two people, including Duop.
The air strike in Bentiu, a dusty town with just one paved road and mainly
traditional Tukul houses, destroyed three market stalls selling sugar, soap
and other household goods to cinders.
"Everywhere people were crying and screaming. Everybody was saying: 'Whose
child was that?' and they were worrying. Then they found out his name," said
Nyanhial Bol, who runs a tea shop across the road from where Duop died.
Bentiu residents fear their town may be the next target in a conflict that
has already damaged the contested Heglig oil field which once produced
nearly half of Sudan's oil production.
The feud has halted most oil production, strangling their oil-dependent
economies. "The bombing brought back memories and made me worry that we
might go back to war," Bol said.
Sudan and South Sudan have been locked in a dispute over oil exports since
July. The row pushed Juba to halt production of 350,000 barrels per day in
protest after Sudan began taking some oil from the South for what it calls
unpaid export fees.
The latest skirmishes are concentrated in the oil-rich regions which
straddle the contested border.
South Sudan's army, the SPLA, seized the Heglig oil field earlier this
month, but finding itself internationally isolated over the move, Juba
withdrew from Heglig last week.
Days later Sudan's air force dropped bombs on the Unity state, prompting
indignation from South Sudanese who feel the international community has let
"In all of Unity state the people are not happy with the decision that was
taken ... (to withdraw) the troops from the border but if it gives space for
the peace and the international community acts on time there will be no
problem," said Joseph Gatkuoth, a businessman at a tea stand.
"The problem will be the delay."
Sudan has denied carrying out the air strikes and accused Juba of starting
the fighting and troop build-up at border.
Much of the tension has been fuelled by bellicose rhetoric by Sudan's
President Omar al-Bashir and his southern counterpart Salva Kiir.
The SPLA's deputy director for military intelligence, Mac Paul, says
Khartoum is deploying more troops near the border with the intention of
taking Bentiu, an opinion echoed by many residents.
"My feelings are they drove the SPLA south and I fear they will make it
further south all way to Bentiu," said Mussa Gatsiam, a bus conductor at
Bentiu bus station.
He said, though, there was no sense of panic in Bentiu as only few had left
the town since the start of the border clashes. Many shops were open on
"People live and work here. They don't find jobs in Juba," Gatsiam said.
"They adjusted to bombardments before the CPA (2005 Comprehensive Peace
No bombing was reported on Wednesday for the first time since Friday but
many people were still on edge.
"I do not want war to come back," Nyachar Teny, an old woman standing in
front of a freezer surrounded by charred plastic bottled and cans of fizzy
drinks. "It seemed like everyone was finished with war." (Writing by Yara
Bayoumy and Ulf Laessing Editing by Maria Golovnina,)
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Received on Wed Apr 25 2012 - 08:57:47 EDT