JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN — Sudanese President Omar al Bashir is due to visit Juba Friday for the first time since South Sudan became an independent nation in 2011.
The Sudanese president will hold talks with his South Sudanese counterpart, Salva Kiir, which many hope will strengthen ties between the two countries.
Accompanying Bashir on the visit will be a 65-member delegation of advisors; defense, interior and foreign affairs officials, and other senior civil servants.
South Sudanese government spokesman Barnaba Marial Benjamin said Bashir will discuss with Kiir how to fully implement cooperation agreements signed between the two countries last September, including one on how to administer the disputed border area of Abyei.
“They need to talk about Abyei administration. That is a docket which the two presidents have been empowered by the African Union High Implementation Panel to give a direction as to its implementation,” he said.
Benjamin urged South Sudanese to warmly welcome Bashir to Juba, noting that "this is a guest of your government."
Juba University political science professor Samson Wassara said Bashir’s visit to Juba is a key step toward improving relations between the two countries.
"The agreement which started in September paved the way to some kind of rapprochement between the two countries," he said.
"There has been international pressure and local pressure on them, both Bashir and Kiir of South Sudan, to improve the relations. For two states to be viable and stable, there is a need for better relations, improved relations between Sudan and South Sudan.”
Bashir had planned to travel to Juba in April last year, but cancelled his visit after South Sudan’s military , the SPLA, seized the disputed oil town of Heglig, pushing the two countries to the brink of war.