By Abdelmoneim Abu Edris Ali/ AFP
KHARTOUM: President Omar Al-Bashir said on Thursday he planned to attend the independence ceremony of south Sudan which he wanted to be a stable and secure new state with relations benefitting both sides.
Speaking just two days before the planned ceremony, Bashir said: “After two days I will go to Juba to congratulate our brothers on their new state, and we will renew our commitment to help them because we want a southern state that is stable and secure.”
“Because if it is not secure, the people of the south will come back to the north,” he told thousands of supporters in a speech broadcast live on state television.
Around 360,000 southerners have already left the north and gone south since October, according to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), many of them motivated by the simple desire to participate in the historic birth of their nation.
“We want relations based on an exchange of benefits and trade, and the free movement of citizens across the borders,” Bashir added.
South Sudan is carrying out final preparations ahead of its formal declaration of independence on Saturday but it is also struggling to cope with the mass influx of people, and to contain violence within its borders.
The number of people killed in violence so far this year has now exceeded 2,360, the United Nations said on Thursday, revising upward the estimated death toll by more than 500, and reflecting the huge challenges the country faces.
Tensions between north and south Sudan, meanwhile, have escalated since May because of conflict in the volatile central border region.
Fighting in the ethnically-divided northern state of South Kordofan has raged for a month between the army and militia aligned to the ex-rebel army of the south, the SPLA.
Bashir said Khartoum would not accept any partnership with the so-called rebels before security arrangements in South Korodfan were in place.
“After the outbreak of the rebellion, and the killing of people, they brought us an agreement saying we want a political partnership,” he said in his speech on Thursday, referring to the northern branch of the former-rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).
He added that Sudan “could not accept the partnership before a security arrangement is implemented.”
Malik Agar, the SPLM north’s chairman, signed an accord with Bashir’s top aide Nafie Ali Nafie in the Ethiopian capital last week that had boosted hopes of a permanent political and security settlement for Blue Nile and South Kordofan, both northern states with a large number of SPLM supporters.
The SPLM north accused Bashir on Tuesday of sabotaging efforts to reach a ceasefire in the embattled state.
The UN humanitarian office reported continuing fighting in South Kordofan, on Thursday, saying the security situation there remained tense and volatile.