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Sudan's Bashir Pays Historic Visit to South Sudan

  • South Sudanese President Salva Kiir (r.) hugs his Sudanese counterpart Omar al Bashir as he arrives at Juba airport on Friday, April 12, 2013. The Sudanese president was visiting South Sudan for the first time since it split from Sudan in 2011.
  • The plane carrying Sudanese President Omar al Bashir to his first visit of South Sudan taxis to a halt at Juba airport on Friday, April 12, 2013.
  • A band plays to welcome Sudanese President Omar al Bashir to South Sudan.
  • The presidents of Sudan and South Sudan stand to attention, side-by-side, as the national anthems of their countries play at Juba airport on Friday, April 12, 2013 at the start of the first visit by Sudanese President Omar al Bashir to South Sudan.
  • Sudanese President Omar al Bashir gets a red carpet welcome as he arrives at Juba airport for his first visit to South Sudan since it split from Sudan in 2011.
  • Sudanese President Omar al Bashir inspects an honor guard at Juba airport at the start of his first visit to South Sudan.
  • South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (r) welcomes his Sudanese counterpart Omar Hassan al Bashir outside his presidential office in Juba on Friday, April 12, 2013.
  • Sudanese President Omar al Bashir and his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir address reporters at a joint news conference at the end of Bashir's historic visit to South Sudan.
Sudan President Pays Historic Visit to South Sudan
Charlton DokiAndrew Green
Sudanese President Omar al Bashir paid a historic first visit to South Sudan Friday, fueling hopes of peace and cooperation between the two countries, after a tense year that has brought them to the brink of war over oil rights and territorial claims.

During the one-day visit, the Sudanese president met with his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir for talks focussed on the implementation of agreements the two countries signed last year, but only recently began to implement.

Kiir described the discussions as cordial, and said that the two leaders pledged to improve security along the border and allow free trade.

They also discussed how to share revenues from oil, officials said. The issue has brought the two neighbors to blows in the past and led to South Sudan, which controls most of the oil in the Sudans, halting production in January last year amid a row with Khartoum over pipeline fees.

The differences were resolved last month when an agreement was signed in Ethiopia. Production resumed days before Bashir's visit.

Although they failed to reach a definitive agreement on the disputed oil-rich region of Abyei, they agreed to continue negotiations on the key border area.

Bashir said his visit signaled his commitment to peace between the two countries, which once formed the largest country in Africa. After a long civil war ended in 2005, South Sudan voted in a referendum in 2011 to split from Sudan and become an independent nation. Bashir had not set foot in the world's newest nation until Friday.

The Sudanese leader was greeted at Juba airport with a guard of honor and red
Description: South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (R) welcomes his Sudanese counterpart Omar al Bashir outside his presidential office in Juba on Friday, April 12, 2013. (Reuters)Description: South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (R) welcomes his Sudanese counterpart Omar al Bashir outside his presidential office in Juba on Friday, April 12, 2013. (Reuters)
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Description: South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (R) welcomes his Sudanese counterpart Omar al Bashir outside his presidential office in Juba on Friday, April 12, 2013. (Reuters)
Description: South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (R) welcomes his Sudanese counterpart Omar al Bashir outside his presidential office in Juba on Friday, April 12, 2013. (Reuters)
carpet before he and Kiir made their way to the presidential office for talks.

In the South Sudanese capital, the visit was met with mixed reactions.

James Mabor Gatkuoth, the leader of the opposition National Democratic Front Party, said the visit was an opportunity for the two countries to normalize relations and reach firm agreements on critical issues, like the contested Abyei region.

But, he added, not all South Sudanese shared his positive take on the visit of Bashir, who is wanted by the international war crimes court in The Hague for allegedly orchestrating atrocities in Darfur.

“There are mixed feelings," Gatkuoth said.

"Some people feel that, as he’s wanted in the Hague... he doesn’t deserve to be received. But a majority think the peace agreement was made by him, and they’re right to think so.” 

Biel Boutros Biel, the executive director of the South Sudan Human Rights Society for Advocacy, dismissed Bashir’s visit as a political move and said he did not expect the visit would improve relations.

"We don’t see a reason why people should celebrate Bashir’s visit as a solution to everything. Once he goes back to Khartoum, he’s the same Bashir.

"People are still dying... and nobody’s talking about it. They’re just talking that Bashir is coming,” he said.

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Comments
     
by: Elinge Paul from: Abuja Nigeria.
April 15, 2013 11:06 AM
I think this visit is very vital in a time like this in the history of Sudan. "An enemy cannot visit his enemy". The historic visit of Bashir to South Sudan is very preponderant in the peace process between the two countries. Even if Bashir has a hidden motive, it should be for the benefit of the two nations. This is a very clear example of maturity in the African leadership. Thanks.

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