East African leaders meeting in Ethiopia have called on the international community to grant debt relief to Sudan and remove the country from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) issued its statement Monday after a meeting in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
This comes as South Sudan prepares for its independence from the north Saturday. IGAD leaders expressed concern about what they called unresolved issues between the north and the south, including the disputed Abyei region.
Fouad Hikmat, Horn of Africa Project Director for the International Crisis Group, said the issues of Abyei and the call for a delay in carrying out the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir will continue to be contentious.
“These two areas are going to remain the contentious areas giving that the other issues, the financial and physical issues, the oil issues, the two parties will be able to reach an agreement on how to share and how to resolve those issues after South Sudan becomes independent. However, the boundary, specifically Abyei, will continue to remain contentious,” he says.
Hikmat said the African Union High Level Implementation Panel headed by former South African President Thabo Mbeki will have to do more to make sure that north and south Sudan do not resort to war. He said it would be in interest of both sides to reach a settlement.
“The feelings I have got from my close observation last year is that the National Congress Party, the majority ruling party in Khartoum, always pushes to the maximum in trying to gain a better position in the negotiations. And, I think that is what happened in the recent fighting in Kordofan and also the decision by the north to take Abyei. But, after independence, I think the two countries need to accommodate each other because the stability of each goes through the other’s capital,” Hikmat says.
The East African leaders also called on the international community to remove Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and to defer the International Criminal Court war crimes indictment of Bashir.
Hikmat said the ICC’s indictment has nothing to do with south Sudan’s independence, but rather the alleged crimes committed in Sudan’s Darfur region.
“In think the ICC has got nothing to do with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the north and the south. That has got something to do with the gross crimes committed in Darfur, and I don’t think that the international community will be able to defer the ICC indictment for one year, according to Chapter 16 based on the south separating,” Hikmat said.
He said if north Sudan is able to make the right concessions for a durable solution in Darfur, then the U.N. Security Council would be more likely to defer the ICC indictment.