Photo courtesy of Martin Hay

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

New 'official' map 'proves hostile intentions', says Sudan

The argument over border demarcation is on-going and shows no sign of compromise, but can South Sudan’s creation of their own ‘official map’ be a ‘violation of the UN Security Council’, as the Sudanese Foreign Ministry Undersecretary claims?

S. Sudan's VP, Riek Machar, sitting in front of the new proposed map of South Sudan
On 4th May, South Sudan presented their own map of their nation, a visual representation of their imagined rights and entitlements over the land formerly known as ‘southern Sudan’. This map depicts currently disputed border regions inside the South Sudanese boarder and, presumably, is the map that South Sudan want to bring to the negotiating table at the next round of discussions with Sudan and the AU. This map includes the recently SPLA occupied area of Heglig. The occupation of Heglig, officially in Sudan, took place in March and South Sudan withdrew troops 3 weeks later following heavy international criticism.

Following South Sudan’s occupation of Heglig in March 2012, the AU drew up a speedy and urgent agenda to advise on addressing the outstanding areas of contention between Sudan and South Sudan namely; disputed boarder regions, oil exports and citizenship. South Sudan and Sudan were given three months to resume talks and settle disputes or else risk ‘appropriate measures’. The agenda has been approved and backed by the UN Security Council, who have threatened ‘sanctions’ on the two countries if they do not meet their three month deadline.

On the face of it, it seems like South Sudan is happy with the agenda and prepared to go back to the negotiating table, as is signified by their withdrawal of troops from Heglig. Sudan, however, is more suspicious – they do not believe that three months is a long enough deadline and they mistrust the entities within the AU who put the agenda together. Furthermore, representatives of the Sudanese government feel like the AU agenda reads too much like ‘western language and ideas’. Neither countries have much confidence in the other’s commitment to real compromise or fair negotiating.

Despite this, Sudan is appealing to the UNSC, stating that by drawing up their own national map, South Sudan are launching a “shameful attack on the territory and the sovereignty of Sudan”, which is absurd in the light of the aerial bombardment which has been carried out by Sudanese Antonov planes on South Sudanese territory since November 2011.

Maps are important and powerful tools which represent agreements and entitlement and every nation has the right to negotiate their borders and sovereignty over land. It seems to me that Sudan doth protest too much to South Sudan putting their contestations in picture form. This map is not a violation of space and no one has been harmed in the making of this map. The map is not internationally recognised, so South Sudan cannot occupy and govern land in accordance to their new map – so where are the hostilities? What do Sudan suppose South Sudan will do on the basis of their new map other than challenge Sudan at the negotiating table? South Sudan must defend their proposition if it is to become internationally recognised, but by simply drawing it up, nothing has been violated.

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