North Sudan troops start withdrawal from oil areas

January 7, 2008 (ST)

Northern Sudan army has begun pulling out from the oil areas in southern Sudan after several delay triggering tension between the two peace partners, while Sudanese presidency directed to provide the necessary funds to implement joint units deployment.

"There is gradual movement. On the 9th there will be no SAF (Sudan Armed Forces) forces in Unity State, in the oilfields, or in Upper Nile State. They are now moving," said from Juba Major General Biar Ajang of the former rebel southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

Southern army officials found barracks that had housed SAF troops in oil-rich northern Upper Nile State empty on Monday morning, a Joint Defence Board member said.

Also in Khartoum, the Joint defence Board (JDB) chairman Gen. Oyay Deng Ajak and his deputy Gen. Haj Ahmed al-Gaili briefed the Sudanese presidency about the plan adopted in its meeting on January 5, to deploy the Joints Integrated Units (JIUs) in the inner circle of oil production areas.

During the meeting, the Sudanese presidency Ministry of Finance to provide the required budgets for the redeployment of troops and building and integrating the joint units at all the specified areas in the north and the south and their training.

JDB spokesperson, Maj-Gen Abdelrahman Mohamed Zayn, said last week that there are some financial shortages facing redeployment of troops from Western Equatoria and Bahr el-Gazal. He added the JDB will submit a request to the concerned authorities to obtain the necessary funds.

Northern troops were originally supposed to leave the region by July 9 and hand control of its oilfields to joint patrols under a north-south peace deal that ended more than 20 years of war in 2005 and devolved power to the south.

Their continuing presence triggered an October the withdrawal of the SPLM ministers from Sudan’s coalition government. The two sides then set a new Dec. 31 deadline for the troop withdrawal that was also missed.

Ajang said that on Jan. 9 — also the third anniversary of the north-south peace deal — the SAF would officially hand over Unity State to special units of southern and northern soldiers that are to patrol the oilfields under the peace deal. Southern officials earlier put the number of northern troops in Unity as high as 15,000. Kiir had put the number of northern troops still in the south late last year at 17,000 but northern officials said there remained only 3,600.

Remnants of southern forces in two transitional states above the north-south border, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, have also moved south, except 120 soldiers guarding tanks in Blue Nile, Ajang said.

"This is in the knowledge of SAF. They know they cannot be left alone," said Ajang, who added that the tanks needed maintenance. "(The rest) have moved already, redeployed south."

State Minister at the Sudanese presidency Idris Mohamed Abdelgadir said the meeting directed the governors of Blue Nile and South Kordufan States to control the organs of rule and administration and provide services to all areas in the southern parts of the two states from which the SPLA would be redeployed to the south.

He added that the report of the Joint Defence Board included the achievements of the joint north and south Sudan armies, which supervises deployment, formation, building and command of the Joint Integrated Units.


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