Crisis talks falter in south Sudan

Crisis talks between Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and southern leader Salva Kiir ended on Thursday without agreement on getting his former rebels to rejoin the unity government they quit a week ago.

The meeting at the presidential palace in Khartoum came the day after al-Bashir authorised a Cabinet reshuffle that failed to satisfy the demands of Kiir’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), whose ministers refuse to take part in government until further steps are taken.

“There was no agreement on a date for the ministers to be sworn in,” presidential spokesperson Mahjub Fadl Badri told journalists after Kiir, who is also First Vice-President, had met al-Bashir.

“There will be further meetings to discuss undecided matters,” he said, declining to say when the next round of talks aimed at ending the worst crisis faced by the two sides since they made peace two years ago might take place.

Despite the lack of agreement, Badri said that “the institution of the Presidency will continue to function normally”, and that the SPLM had not voiced disagreement over the reshuffle.

The SPLM recalled its ministers from the Cabinet on October 11 over what it called Khartoum’s failure to implement a 2005 peace deal between north and south Sudan that ended Africa’s longest-running civil war.

The group’s demands focus on getting Khartoum’s troops out of the south and resolving the fate of the disputed oil district of Abiye.

Al-Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP) has in turn blamed the SPLM for delays in implementing the comprehensive peace agreement that ended 21 years of war between the Muslim north and mainly Christian and animist south that killed at least two million people and displaced millions more.

SPLM secretary general Bagan Amon said earlier that the southern ministers “will stay out of government until we have started to apply provisions of the peace deal that have not yet been applied”.

Amon on Wednesday said that the reshuffle announced by al-Bashir after a three-month delay corresponded roughly to a list the SPLM handed to the president, although “some names were not chosen”.

The most significant portfolio change was the removal of foreign minister Lam Akol, viewed by the south as too close to al-Bashir’s ruling NCP and as a defender of government actions in the troubled western region of Darfur.

In a gesture aimed at wooing the southern partners back, al-Bashir appointed Deng Alor, a senior SPLM leader, as foreign minister.

Alor, who previously held the post of minister of Cabinet affairs, was also Governor of Bahr al-Ghazal province in south Sudan, where the SPLM was founded and which was deeply affected by the north-south war.

On Tuesday, Kiir told a pro-SPLM gathering in the southern capital, Juba, that his group would not go back to war but would pursue the push for full implementation of the peace deal.

He said thousands of northern troops were still in the south despite a July 9 CPA deadline for their withdrawal.

Al-Bashir has also repeated that “there will be no return to war with the south” in recent speeches and that the CPA and peace in the country must both be preserved.

The SPLM accuses the NCP of monopolising power by behaving like the only governing party, of lacking transparency in the distribution of Sudan’s supposedly shared oil wealth and of arresting various southern activists living in the north.—Sapa-AFP

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