Khartoum / Abyei — Sudan and South Sudan signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Khartoum for joint military and defence cooperation between both countries on Thursday.
The memorandum was signed by Sudanese Minister of Defence Maj Gen Yasin Ibrahim and his South Sudanese colleague Angelina Teny. It includes cooperation in the fields of “training, exchange of experiences, peace promotion, support and disaster management, as well as combating cross-border crimes, smuggling, human trafficking and combating the activities of anti-peace elements”.
The agreement also incorporates implementation mechanisms at the level of defence ministers, chiefs of staff, and experts.
The military cooperation efforts are part of a wider attempt to strengthen the bilateral relations between Sudan and South Sudan. On Tuesday, the two countries laid the foundation for a free trade zone in the area of Mokhaleef in El Jebelein locality to promote cross-border trade.
The two countries also seek rapprochement on the Abyei region, the contested area between Sudan and South Sudan, whilst the region is still under supervision of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) as part of a UN peacekeeping mission. UN Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix described the collaboration as a positive development during his visit to Khartoum.
Kowal Deng Kowal, head of the administration of the Abyei region inaugurated a number of service facilities in the region on Thursday, including the Abyei Teaching Hospital, buildings of the Ministry of Local Governance, electricity offices, the Land Commission, and the General Secretariat for the Abyei Administration. These inaugurations took place during the region’s seventh anniversary celebrations of the Abyei referendum.
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Kowal told Radio Dabanga that the opening of these service facilities provide support to the people and expressed his hope that it will alleviate their suffering after decades of unrest, resulting in the destruction of most of the area’s infrastructure and mass displacement.
Abyei is the traditional homeland of the Ngok Dinka, who have with strong ties with the South Sudanese Dinka tribe. Herders of the Misseriya, a northern Arab tribe, traverse Abyei and other North-South border areas with their cattle in search of water and pasture in the dry season and to trade goods.
The region witnessed a significant upsurge in cases of cattle rustling, hijacks, and other robberies earlier this year. There is no government or police force in the area and a UN peacekeeping mission, the UNISFA, is entrusted with overseeing demilitarisation and maintaining security in the area.
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