In an historical moment for the horn of Africa, the two Sudans signed a comprehensive peace agreement on Thursday September 27 at the Sheraton Hotel in Addis Ababa.
Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al Bashir and his South Sudan counterpart Salva Kiir Mayardit signed the cooperative protocol agreement on post session matters after five days of negotiations.
Even though the negotiations were originally scheduled to be completed in a day, the two sides could not reach an agreement on border issue specifically on the disputed region of Abyei.
Both sides had been under pressure from the U.N. Security Council to resolve the outstanding issues or risk sanctions. The two leaders met to resolve the issue in the presence of the new Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.
The two sides have been negotiating under the African Union High-level Implementation Panel on Sudan (AU-HIP) mediation over outstanding issues including security, post -session and cooperation among others. The talk was held in the presence of mediators including former Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Pierre Bouyoya of Burundi, and Abdulsalam Abubakar of Nigeria.
After signing the agreement President Salva Kiir lauded the outstanding effort played by the late PM Meles Zenawi. He also commended PM Hailemariam for his constructive engagement in the negotiation process.
He further said “as to Abyei it is very unfortunate that we could not agree,” “My government and I accepted unconditionally the proposal of the AUHIP. Unfortunately my brother Bashir and his government rejected the proposal in its totality.” Salva Kiir said. He called on the African Union to resolve the dispute urgently.
According to foreign news agencies both nations failed to agree on how much South Sudan should pay Sudan in compensation for taking over oil facilities once owned by state firm Sudapet. Sudan demands USD 1.8 billion for Sudapet’s assets, said Pagan Amum, Juba’s chief negotiator. “We are not going to pay this,” he said after the signing ceremony.
Dar Petroleum the oil company operating in South Sudan said it will begin oil production in South Sudan as soon as possible following a security deal signed with Sudan, though getting back to full production remains several months away. South Sudan in January this year shut down its oil production after accusing Sudan of stealing its crude.
South Sudan gained control of about 75 percent of the formerly united country’s 490,000 barrels a day of crude output when it declared independence from Sudan in July 2011. But South Sudan’s oil must be pumped through pipes owned by Sudan, which said it had taken the south’s oil in lieu of unpaid fees for the use of its export and processing facilities. When tensions increased, the south shut down its industry, costing both sides millions in lost revenue, according to news agencies in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.
Even though the agreement did not outline any concrete steps however it said each party had the right to ask oil firms to install additional metering systems. The neighbors also agreed to set up a committee headed by an African Union-appointed official to review payments and technical issues to avoid disputes.
Despite the border disputes, Thabo Mbeki called the signing agreement “a giant step forward for both Sudan and South Sudan”. Mbeki said a mediation panel work with the Peace and Security Council of the African Union to resolve the Abyei issue.
He added that monitors would be deployed to oversee the agreed-upon buffer zone between the two countries. “Monitors are already on standby, the equipment, helicopters and all of that is required for the purposes are also on standby. They are ready,” Mbeki said. The mediators also said that the two sides also signed a deal to let their citizens freely move between the two neighboring countries, reside in and work in both countries.
During the signing ceremony Government Communication Affairs Office Minister Bereket Simon said that Ethiopia has been actively involved in the negotiation process in the dispute of the two Sudan. “As Ethiopia is a close friend and allay to the two Sudans the country is consistently committed to ensure peace and security in the region” he said.
Observers said that the signing agreement will reaffirm Ethiopia’s dominance in the horn.
Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir on his part said his country has recognized South Sudan Republic as an independent State earlier that helped reach agreements on issues of differences. According to him, the current agreement will help prevail peace, exchange trade, free movement of people across the border, widen the spirit of neighborliness and good relation. The President underscored that his country will continue working collaboratively with South Sudan with a view to solving remaining issues including the Abyie region.
The US, EU, China, Arab League and others from all over the world welcomed the deal and congratulated the two leaders for the peaceful agreement.