Sudan’s Bashir visits South Sudan for first time since split

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Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir arrived in South Sudan on Friday for the first time since Africa’s once-largest country split in 2011, raising cautious hopes the two adversaries may be edging toward establishing peaceful co-existence. 

The neighbors agreed in March to resume cross-border oil flows and take steps to defuse the tension that has plagued them since South Sudan’s independence in July 2011 following a treaty which ended decades of civil war.

But they still have not agreed who owns Abyei and other regions along their disputed 2,000-km (1,200-mile) border, Reuters reports.

Bashir had planned to visit Juba a year ago but canceled when fighting erupted along their border and almost flared into full-scale war.

Bashir landed at Juba airport with a 65-strong delegation and was met by South Sudan’s Salva Kiir.

Police lined the main streets, which had been closed and were festooned with the flags of both countries, as the leaders drove to the presidential office.

Bashir and Kiir will discuss with the oil and security deals, border trade as well as remaining territorial conflicts.

Many South Sudanese hope Bashir’s visit will end one of Africa’s longest conflicts. “We need to live in harmony. We need peace between Sudan and South Sudan,” said engineering student Robert Mori.

CONFLICTS

South Sudan’s secession left unresolved a long list of disputes over territory and how much the landlocked south should pay to export its oil through Sudan.

The new African country shut down its entire oil output of 350,000 barrels a day in January last year at the height of the dispute over pipeline fees – a closure that had a devastating effect on both struggling economies.

The two sides subsequently agreed to restart oil shipments, grant each others’ citizens residency, increase border trade and encourage close cooperation between their central banks.

Last week, South Sudan re-launched oil production with the first oil cargo expected to reach Sudan’s Red Sea export terminal at Port Sudan by the end of May.

Both nations also withdrew their troops from border areas as agreed in a deal brokered by the African Union in September.

Bashir last visited Juba on July 9, 2011, to attend the ceremony marking South Sudan’s formal separation.



About two million people died in the war that was fuelled by divisions over religion, oil, ethnicity and ideology and ended in 2005 with a deal that paved the way for Juba’s secession.