Sudan’s Bashir puts up bold front before split

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Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir vowed to fight northern rebels and boycott future international peace talks yesterday as he put up a bold front two days ahead of the secession of the south of his country.

South Sudan is due to declare independence on Saturday — a long-awaited separation it won at the climax of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war with the north.

Bashir, who will lead north Sudan after the split, said he would travel to the southern capital Juba on the south’s independence day and promised friendly relations.

His presence in Juba will reassure diplomats who are worried a series of unresolved disputes over the details of the secession — most importantly how oil revenues will be shared — could spark another bloody north-south conflict.

But the aggressive tone of most of Bashir’s speech to supporters in the north’s White Nile state signaled he was keen to show he was not open to similar deals with insurgents inside his own territory.

The speech also may have been a bid to satisfy opponents to southern secession inside his own party and opposition groups in Khartoum. Sudan stands to lose about a third of its territory and around three quarters of its oil reserves when the south leaves. Some northerners see the loss as a national humiliation.

The northern government is fighting armed groups demanding more autonomy in Darfur and Southern Kordofan – both northern regions that border south Sudan. Analysts have said the south’s successful independence would embolden other rebels.
“After the betrayal in Southern Kordofan they come and want to hold talks … But we will not hold any talks in Addis Ababa or elsewhere with those who take up arms,” Bashir said in a speech interrupted by mass chants of support.
“Anyone who takes up arms against us will be dealt with decisively.”

The crowd sang military songs, praising Sudan’s historic sword fighters and other war heroes. Bashir at one point mentioned Ahmed Haroun, the governor of Southern Kordofan, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court to face charges of war crimes, allegedly carried out during the separate insurgency in neighbouring Darfur.

Bashir also has been indicted by the ICC over war crimes charges stemming from fighting in the Darfur region where at least 300,000 people have been killed.
“I will travel to Juba in two days to congratulate them on their new state and wish them security and stability,” Bashir said in the televised speech.

He said he was seeking friendly relations with the south. “We gave them a complete state with oil. All they need to do is to switch on the engine,” he said.

Heavy gunfire and bombardments were heard in Southern Kordofan every day from June 30 to Tuesday, the United Nations said in a report on Thursday. Media access is restricted and government authorities have barred the United Nations and aid groups from working outside the state capital Kadugli.

Aid officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said they were worried about what would happen to civilians after the withdrawal of the U.N. Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and its peacekeepers on July 9 — the south’s independence day and the end of the mission’s mandate.
“There is a really serious scaling up of military hardware and supplies,” one source said.
“There are Antonovs flying overhead in the late evenings and in the morning. Heavy machinegun fire. The odd use of artillery and mortars and the dropping of bombs in the surrounding hillsides in Kadugli. That is our staple diet,” the source added.

Bashir said he would see through the ongoing peace talks with a small groups of Darfur rebels in Qatar’s capital Doha and would reach a final settlement later this month.

North and south Sudan still have to settle a list of unresolved issues, including the position of their shared border, how they will split debts and manage oil revenues.

The south currently has to transport its oil through northern pipelines but had not agreed how it will pay for the service.