May 08, 2014(JUBA) — Sudan’s deputy ambassador in South Sudan says the proposed East African IGAD force in South Sudan will protect only ceasefire monitors and has no other purpose, suggesting that the force would not be involved in defending oil fields as was earlier reported.
In an interview with Radio Tamazuj today, Ambassador Magdi Ahmed Mofadal reiterated the Sudanese government’s opposition to the presence of East African forces in oil fields in South Sudan and called for the withdrawal of Ugandan troops.
Though Khartoum benefits from South Sudan’s export of oil through Sudanese pipelines, the Sudanese government nonetheless appears opposed to the presence of East African forces at the strategic fields.
Last March the heads of state of the nations forming the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD), of which Sudan is a part, issued a communiqué calling for deployment of troops to protect ceasefire monitors and “other infrastructures” in South Sudan.
The communiqué “authorizes the prompt deployment of a Protection and Deterrent Force (PDF) from the region with a clear mandate and operational guidelines as part of the IGAD Monitoring and Verification Mechanism in South Sudan.”
It further added that the Protection and Deterrent Force (PDF) would form part of the monitoring mission and would protect the ceasefire monitors themselves as well as “other infrastructures in South Sudan.”
After issuance of the communiqué South Sudanese rebels threatened to attack the force if deployed to oil fields and said the deployment of such a force would call into question IGAD’s neutrality as mediators.
Mofadal today noted that the Sudanese government supported the summit decision authorizing the force but disclosed that a decision has since been made to change the name of the force: “Now, the force is going to be called ‘IGAD Protection Force’ – it’s not going to be ‘deterrence force.’”
“The main aim of these protection forces, they are going to protect the IGAD monitors,” he explained, noting some of these monitors have already been deployed to Malakal, Bor, Bentiu and Juba.
Mofadal explained, “This protection force is going to protect only the monitors; it has nothing to do with other functions or whatever you may have heard or read or see in the media. The only function of these IGAD forces are to protect IGAD monitors.”
UN Security Council role
Reportedly, IGAD have been negotiating with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations on what kind of relationship the IGAD force would have to UNMISS. The UN peacekeepers would also potentially be involved in supporting the ceasefire monitoring – though this would depend on the outcome of deliberations at the UN Security Council on adjustment of the UNMISS mandate.
The diplomat said the IGAD force was going to be about 2,500-strong, noting however that deployment of the force has been delayed because the UN Security Council has not yet authorized the IGAD forces.
“From a procedural point of view the first thing is for the Security Council to issue a resolution authorizing the deployment of the forces.”
Sudan will participate in the civilian monitoring component of the mission, but will not send troops to take part as part of the ‘protection force’.
Opposition to UPDF role
Sudan has criticized the role of the Ugandan People’s Defense Force in the conflict in South Sudan. The Sudanese diplomat today reiterated concerns about the role of the East African nation.
“You know that the presence of the Ugandan forces and other allied forces was one of the contentious issues in the negotiations. Before the signing of the cessation of hostilities this was one of the most contentious issues,” he said.
Mofadal was referring to the rebels’ demand that the Ugandans withdraw from the country.
“It is one of the impediments to the peace process because the other side is asking the government of South Sudan to withdraw the UPDF and other allied forces,” hes aid.
“Our position is that we need this issue to be settled as soon as possible and we think that the first step in that direction is the commitment of the two sides in the conflict to the cessation of hostilities,” he explained.
“And the second step is the deployment of the protection forces, because now our brothers and sisters in Uganda they have said that they withdraw the UPDF from South Sudan when the IGAD protection force is deployed,” he added.
No Sudanese troops at oil fields
The deputy ambassador also denied that the Sudanese government had considered sending forces to help South Sudan protect the Upper Nile oil fields.
Soon after the Unity fields were shut down by violence in December, the President of Sudan Omar al Bashir visited his counterpart Salva Kiir in Juba. It was widely reported after the meeting that the Sudanese leader had offered military assistance to secure the remaining productive fields.
At the time, this was quickly denied. For his part, the ambassador strongly denied that the matter of Sudanese troops at the oil fields was ever discussed at the Bashir-Kiir summit.
“The issue of joint forces has not been raised at all, at any level,” he said.
He noted that Bashir offered instead to dispatch “oil engineers and technicians in order to augment or to increase oil production because some of the foreign staff of the companies were withdrawn.”
“So they asked us to provide assistance in the form of some Sudanese engineers and technicians. And we have accepted that and still the two ministries of oil are working on that one,” he said.
On the other hand, Mofadal disclosed that the Sudanese government had considered a joint border protection force with Sudan Sudan – drawing a comparison to the joint force along the Chadian border – but specified that this would not be for the purpose of protecting the oil.
Courtesy of Radio Tamazuj.