KHARTOUM, SUDAN - Sudan President Omar al-Bashir has given Juba two months to force Sudanese rebels operating inside South Sudan to leave the country.
Bashir made the remarks in Khartoum over the weekend after the U.S. State Department issued a statement last Thursday indicating the South Sudan government is harboring Sudanese rebels.
At a meeting Saturday of the National Shura Council, Bashir said Juba, the capital of South Sudan, must cut its ties with Sudanese rebels and expel them from the country immediately.
Bashir noted that he and South Sudan President Salva Kiir signed the 2012 cooperation agreement that includes provisions that commits both governments to refrain from supporting rebel groups in each other's countries.
Bashir said if Juba does not comply with the agreement, Khartoum will no longer abide by it either.
U.S. weighs in
U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner, in a press statement, said “credible reports continue to indicate the Government of the Republic of South Sudan is harboring and providing assistance to armed Sudanese opposition groups.”
The statement called on the Kiir administration to redouble its efforts to meet the commitments reached with Sudan, as both parties agreed to end support for armed opposition groups in each other's countries.
Sudan government spokesman Ahmed Bilal Osman said Khartoum wants Juba to honor the commitment made by Vice President Taban Deng Gai in a recent visit to Khartoum.
“This is an agreement and a commitment by the Vice President Taban Deng when he visited Sudan. He said in this period they had already told the rebels to move out of the South. This is the only thing. If they did that, the normalization of relations between Sudan and South Sudan can be normal and everything can be solved,” Osman said.
South Sudan government spokesman Michael Makuei insists that Juba does not support Sudanese rebels and accused the U.S. of releasing the statement to placate Khartoum.
“We are not harboring any rebels here and we are not doing anything. All we know is that America wants to normalize its relations with the Sudan government and as such it had to issue such a statement,” Makuei said.
Makuei added that the U.S. should have condemned Khartoum’s support of South Sudanese rebels waging war on the government of South Sudan.
“Khartoum is harboring, accommodating and training and arming the rebels against the government of South Sudan. This is well-known. They are present in Khartoum and it is known all over the world,” Makuei said.
Denials on both sides
Osman flatly denied accusations that Sudan helps finance the SPLM-In Opposition or the former first vice president of South Sudan.
“If they’re meaning [Riek] Machar, Machar only came here for humanitarian reasons. And that’s not actually by Sudan alone but actually by the United Nations. They helped Sudan to move him from Congo to Sudan to be treated,” Osman said.
Osman said Khartoum is willing to stop South Sudanese rebels from coming to Sudan so long as Juba stops hosting Sudanese rebels in its country.