The SA embassy in Khartoum has not yet been successful in its attempts to gain access to an SA landmine clearer being held by Sudan.
The South African embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, has requested consular access to a South African landmine clearer detained there, the department of international relations and co-operation said on Monday.
“The embassy has asked for consular access to him so that we can render the necessary support to him,” said spokesperson Clayson Monyela.
The other countries whose citizens were detained on suspicion of being part of the recent resurgence of violence in the region were also trying to get consular access but none had succeeded yet.
“But the efforts will continue today [Monday],” said Monyela.
A South African landmine clearer identified by Agence France Presse (AFP) as Thabo Siave, who works for Mechem, a division of South African arms company Denel, was detained with Norwegian John Sorbo, a unnamed British national, and an unnamed South Sudan national, a spokesperson for Sudanese military said on Saturday.
Sawarmi Khaled Saad, the army spokesperson, identified the foreigners as a Briton, a Norwegian, a South African and a South Sudanese and reportedly said they had been part of military aggression from now independent Republic of South Sudan directed at Sudan.
‘Captured’ in Heglig
Saad the the four were “captured” at a disputed oilfield area called Heglig.
Ashley Williams, chief executive of Mechem told Sapa that he had been instructed to refer queries to Denel, whose spokesperson was not immediately available.
However, before this instruction, he told media that Siave and the South Sudanese man were doing landmine mine clearance with the Briton and Norwegian, with full UN immunity, well within South Sudan territory.
He denied that they had been in Heglig when the soldiers came upon them, and said the soldiers actually took them to Heglig.
The UN’s news service Irin said Heglig lies between Abyei and South Kordofan’s Nuba Mountains and is close to the border town of Jau. It falls into an area that has historically been difficult to demarcate and falls in one of three still disputed areas.
Reports vary, but it is estimated to provide between 50% to 75% of South Sudan and Sudan’s crude oil.
In exchanges in the media, Saad had been quoted as suggesting the four were part of aggressive strikes from South Sudan against Sudan because of their military backgrounds.
‘Complete and utter nonsense’
“It’s humanitarian work so the story of them being military advisors and this type of thing is complete and utter nonsense and not true,” AFP quoted Williams as saying.
After almost 30 years of war, last year 99% of people who voted in a referendum in the south opted to split from the north, and in July the Republic of South Sudan became an independent nation.
Former South African president Thabo Mbeki played a key role in the facilitation of that process, but earlier in April he raised the alarm at the UN Security Council saying that violence between South Sudan and Sudan was escalating again.
A key unresolved issue, according to a UN paper on the matter, is how the oil resources will be shared and managed. Although oil fields lie in South Sudan, the crude must be shipped to Sudan, and out through its ports. South Sudan decided to stop shipping oil to Sudan saying it was charging extortionate fees and had taken $815-million of its revenue.
Since then Sudan tensions have escalated and Sudan began air strikes on South Sudan.—Sapa