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South Sudan VP Calls Agreement a 'Blessing'

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, left, and South Sudan President Salva Kiir, right, shake hands after signing deals last week in Ethiopia. (AP Photo/Elias Asmare)
South Sudan’s vice president says the accords signed by Sudan and South Sudan last week in Ethiopia will relieve the economic hardship of people in both South Sudan and Sudan.

VOA spoke to Vice President Riek Machar in New York, shortly after he addressed the United Nations General Assembly. President Salva Kiir could not attend the U.N. debate because he was in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where he signed the accords.

The vice president said the agreements will strengthen trade and stimulate economic activities between the two countries. He also noted that the agreements provide for the free movement of people between the two countries.

‘’South Sudanese can go north provided they have a legal document, similarly with north Sudanese. Trade across the borders will also flourish… before the blockade of the borders by Khartoum, we used to get more than 60 percent of our essential commodities from the north,” Machar said.

Machar said South Sudan’s decision to shut down oil production in January 2012 due to a disagreement with Khartoum over oil transport fees created hardships for the world’s newest country because the economy shrank and the government froze all development projects. South Sudan is almost entirely independent on oil revenue for hard currency and its oil must move through Sudanese pipelines to reach international markets.

‘’But it is a blessing that now there is an agreement to get more revenues particularly in hard currency and the people will be happy," said the vice president.

Machar acknowledged that economic stress created insecurity in South Sudan’s urban centers and a rise in people turning to “criminal activities,” but the government has created a combined force in Juba of police and security officials to fight crime.

An earlier version of this article had an incorrect date for when South Sudan shut down oil production.

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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the  South Sudan In Focus radio program.
    Before joining VOA, John worked in Nairobi, Kenya where he established the first independent radio station (Sudan Radio Service) for the people of Sudan. He has covered several civil wars both in Sudan and South Sudan and has been engaged in the production of civic education materials for creating awareness about post conflict issues facing Sudanese and South Sudanese. John has interviewed South Sudan President Salva Kiir, former Vice President Riek Machar, Vice President Wani Igga, leader of Sudan’s Umma Party Sadiq Al Mahdi in addition to other senior United Nations and U.S government officials in South Sudan and Washington. His travels have taken him across to Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Egypt, Ethiopia, Syria, DRC Congo and parts East Africa where he reported on the South Sudanese diaspora and the challenges facing them.
    A South Sudanese national, John enjoys listening to music from all over the world, reads academic books, watches documentaries and listens to various radio stations on the internet.  You can follow John on Twitter at @Abusukon