Bilateral ties

President Salva Kiir and PM Hailemariam Dessalegn.

Ethiopia and South Sudan signed nine cooperation agreements on Friday February 24, as part of the official visit of South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, who arrived on Thursday.

According to the agreements, priority will be given to building two highways linking the two nations, including one linking Gambella-Paggak-Palouge and another linking Dima-Raad-Boma-Bor.

Memoranda of understanding were also signed on energy, border trade protocol, preferential trade, communication, information and media.

In a joint statement, the two countries said they desired to “further strengthen their  already existing excellent relations.”

The trans-border highway projects, the statement said, acknowledged that free movement of people and goods was a pre-requisite to boosting economic ties.

Asked about his Cairo visit two months ago and if that strained diplomatic relations with Ethiopia, Kiir said: “It is a normal official visit made on the invitation of [Egyptian] President [Abdel Fattah] el-Sissi just like my Ethiopia visit.”

He said some people tried to make it as though it was to conspire against Ethiopia with Egypt regarding the Nile and other regional issues.

He dismissed all such talk as rumors.

The Ethiopian premier said a country has the right to cooperate bilaterally with any other nation.

There have been reports of widespread conflicts in South Sudan since July 2016 after the former first vice president and rebel leader Riek Machar left the transitional arrangement. He now lives in exile in South Africa.

Tens of thousands of South Sudanese died and two million others were displaced in a civil war that came from  a fall out between Kiir and Machar  which occurred  in mid-December 2013.