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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

South Sudan and Sudan form joint force to protect oil fields

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan and Sudan on Thursday announced establishment of a joint force to boost protection of oil fields in Unity State that was previously under the jurisdiction of Juba.

Elizekel Lol Gatkuoth, the South Sudan’s Minister for Petroleum, told Xinhua that Juba and Khartoum agreed to cooperate in the area of security to facilitate uninterrupted oil production in Unity State.

Gatkuoth said the transitional government of national unity reiterated its commitment to resume oil production in Unity State and North fields and boost economies of the two neighboring countries.

“We have agreed to form Joint Oil Protection Force that will protect the oil fields from invasion by rebels and boost the oil production in a bid to improve the economies of the two countries,” said Lol.

He revealed that a meeting will be held in Khartoum after the end of Muslims month of fasting and discuss how to work together to repair the damaged and closed down pipelines in Hegleg in order for production to resume effectively.

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, retaining nearly three quarters of the oil fields. But the pipelines, refinery and port to export the oil remained in the hands of Khartoum.

In 2012, Sudan and South Sudan signed a comprehensive cooperation deal in Ethiopia, under the patronage of the regional bloc.

The deal included terms of understandings relating to security, citizens’ status, border and economic issues as well as oil production.

South Sudan’s conflict that has now entered its fifth year erupted after forces loyal to President Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar engaged in combat.

The 2015 peace agreement to end the violence was again violated in July 2016 when the rival factions resumed fighting in the capital, Juba, forcing Machar to flee into exile.

Millions of South Sudanese civilians have sought refuge in neighboring countries as the conflict rages on despite attempts by international players to end it.

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EARLIER REPORTS:

South Sudan’s rebel group says its leader willing to meet President Kiir

JUBA, (Xinhua) -- South Sudan’s main rebel group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in opposition (SPLA-IO), said on Thursday that its leader, former First Vice President Riek Machar, is happy to meet his rival President Salva Kiir as requested by regional leaders.

The SPLA-IO said in a statement that Machar is more than happy to meet Kiir in the country or region following the recent request by the Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir to mediate face to face talks between the warring leaders in Khartoum.

“Despite the propaganda of the regime and for the sake of peace, the SPLM/SPLA-IO Chairman and Commander in Chief, Riek Machar Teny is more than happy to meet with President Salva Kiir in any IGAD country, including Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda; or any country outside the region, including Mauritania,” the rebels said.

Last week, the East African regional bloc, IGAD, which is mediating efforts to revive South Sudan’s stalled 2015 peace deal, recommended a Kiir-Machar meeting before the next African Union summit slated for July in Mauritania.

The meeting was called for after the several warring parties in South Sudan last month failed to agree during the second round of the High Level Revitalization Forum held in Ethiopia.

The SPLA-IO denied any awareness about the proposed face-to-face meeting by Sudan involving Machar and President Kiir in Khartoum saying they have not been informed officially.

“The truth is that the SPLM/SPLA-IO has not received any official communication regarding the venue of any prospective ‘face-to-face’ meeting between President Kiir and Machar,” said the rebels.

However, the rebels admitted knowledge of peace efforts by Kenyan opposition figure Raila Odinga to help mediate between the rival leaders in the South Sudan conflict.

The SPLA-IO further said they are fully committed to the peace process and shall continue to engage positively with IGAD in helping achieve peace.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 after political dispute between Kiir and Machar, leading to killing of thousands and displacement of millions of people.

A peace agreement signed in 2015 between the warring parties was again shattered after renewed violence broke out in July 2016.

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Sudanese president offers to mediate in South Sudan conflict

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- Sudan on Tuesday said it has offered to mediate talks between the two warring South Sudan leaders in the Sudanese capital Juba.

Visiting Sudanese Foreign Minister Al-Dierdiry al-Dhikheri said President Omar al-Bashir has invited President Salva Kiir and his rival, former First Vice President Riek Machar, to Khartoum on a yet-to-be-disclosed date in a bid to reach final peaceful settlement to the conflict.

Martin Elia Lomuro, acting South Sudan Foreign Minister, said Kiir welcomed the initiative from his Sudanese counterpart and stands ready to hold talks with his erstwhile rival.

Last week, the East African regional bloc, IGAD, which is mediating efforts to revive South Sudan’s stalled 2015 peace deal, recommended a Kiir-Machar meeting before the next African Union summit slated for July in Mauritania.

The meeting was called for after the several warring parties in South Sudan last month failed to agree during the second round of the High Level Revitalization Forum held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Lomuro revealed that the peace initiative by the Sudanese leader will not affect efforts under the IGAD peace revitalization process.

“We now await this initiative to take place within the context of the IGAD process. It is not a parallel initiative; it is initiative within the context of IGAD revitalization process. We are happy that this is coming from Sudan,” he said.

The minister said that the two countries also agreed to cooperate on oil production since they signed the 2012 agreement that allows South Sudan to pay oil dues to Sudan through transportation through port Sudan.

South Sudan’s oil production plummeted due to conflict from over 350,000 barrels per day (bpd) to less than 160,000 bpd coupled with the economic hardship that led Juba to negotiate oil pipeline fee with its northern neighbor.

South Sudan descended into civil war in late 20013, and the conflict has created one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world. The UN estimates that about 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced internally and externally.

A peace deal signed in August 2015 between the rival leaders under UN pressures led to the establishment of a transitional unity government, but was shattered by renewed fighting in July 2016.

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Relief agencies seek improved access to avert looming hunger in South Sudan

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- Humanitarian agencies on Wednesday called on warring parties in South Sudan to cease hostilities and grant more access in a bid to avert looming hunger in the lean season.

Jan Egeland, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Secretary General, told journalists in Juba that more resources and increased humanitarian access are needed to avert looming food catastrophe in the country.

“I very much would hope that the government can now take the initiative of declaring a humanitarian truce...it will be catastrophic unless there is a Cessation of Hostilities (COH) that is holding and the present one is not holding,” Egeland said after visiting the worst affected areas of Mayom, Leer in the northern Unity region.

This year’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network disclosed that 7.1 million South Sudanese risk starvation due to the fact that 4.5 million have been displaced from their homes since outbreak of conflict in December 2013.

Despite the government and rebels agreeing to the COH in December 2017, intermittent fighting continues across the country amid harassment, aid restrictions and killing of humanitarian workers.

He said South Sudan is a potential bread basket of the region but conflict has forced the majority of farmers to flee for safety into refugee camps.

Egeland urged international donors not to lower investments in relief services but to scale up humanitarian funding.

Adnan Khan, the UN World Food Program (WFP) Country Director, said the humanitarian situation in the country continues to deteriorate.

“The humanitarian situation in South Sudan continues to deteriorate and an unprecedented seven million people wait upon humanitarian assistance in 2018. This is first and foremost a protection crisis in which civilians continue to be killed and subjected to multiple displacements and violations including sexual violence,” he said.

South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013, and the conflict has created one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.

The UN estimates that about 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced internally and externally.

             

 

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