Kiir in Egypt to engage al-Sisi in bilateral talks

Kiir in Egypt to engage al-Sisi in bilateral talks
President of South Sudan Salva Kiir Mayardit and Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (File Photo)

President Salva Kiir yesterday jetted out to Cairo, Egypt, for yet another high profile trip that his office described as a step towards strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries.

The President’s Press Unit revealed that Kiir left Juba International Airport yesterday morning to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in a company of leaders attached to diplomatic dockets. The visit will take him two days. 

The delegation comprised the Presidential Advisor on Security Affairs Tut Gatluak Manime, the Minister of Presidential Affairs Dr Barnaba Marial Benjamin and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Mayiik Ayii Deng.

“He is expected to hold bilateral meetings with his Egyptian counterpart His Excellency President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to discuss issues of mutual interest that will strengthen and deepen the bilateral relations between South Sudan and Egypt, as well also discuss regional matters,” read the statement seen by the City Review.

The City Review attempted to contact the Presidential Press Secretary Ateny Wek Ateny and the Minister of Presidential Affairs Dr Barnaba Marial Benjamin to shade more light on the finer details of the trip but their calls went unanswered.

Diplomatic ties

Albeit the details of President Kiir’s trip remain scanty, Egypt has played a pivotal role in peace negotiations for South Sudan and this has strengthened the bond of brotherhood. 

For instance, in 2020, the Egyptian President accompanied by high-level government officials arrived in Juba where the two presidents discussed bilateral relations concerning economy and development.

This came after Kiir visited Egypt for three days and met the Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in January 2017. In July 2017, El-Sisi held a telephone conversation with President Kiir expressing Egypt’s support for the ceasefire between him and Dr Riek Machar. A ceasefire was signed immediately after the telephone conversation.

Former relations and promises

President Kiir has lately been meeting leaders across the region, with his latest trip being the one for Addis Ababa, where he promised to mediate the conflict between Ethiopia and Tigray region to quench the year-long feud. 

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed, for his second tenure, Kiir assured Ethiopians that South Sudan would always stand by them citing the long history of liberation where a network of Ethiopian leaders had been in a strong relationship with South Sudan.

During that visit, Kiir also conducted a meeting with the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari where they discussed bilateral relations with Nigeria. Buhari promised that Nigeria would strengthen relations with South Sudan as well.

However, media reports revealed that Ethiopia launched an offensive airstrike against Tigray forces just days after the inauguration of Dr Ahmed, striking parts of the northern Amhara region despite the threats by the US government to sanction those responsible for the conflict.

The Tigray Liberation Front Forces reclaimed their capital Mekelle from Ethiopian troops and its allies, the Eritrean forces in June. Forces of Abiy and the Eritrean forces were accused of rape and massacring civilians in their original barrack when the conflict ensued. 

Meeting with Hamdok

As part of unlocking regional trade, a delegation from Sudan led by the Sudanese Prime Minister Ibrahim Hamdok had a three-day visit to Juba in August and discussed economic and trading interests between the two countries basically the resumption of exports and border trade. The two countries agreed to open both land and water transport to ease the transit of goods across the two borders.

In a joint statement, the two sides also agreed to remove all barriers to banking transactions and developing joint plans on oil and gas trade at the meetings of the Joint Political Security Mechanism (JPSM) in Juba from September 4 to 5.

The Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maryam El Sadiq El Mahdi said the visit was historic in a press statement on their arrival at the airport in Khartoum. The Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the two countries agreed to review all the agreements signed before the secession of South Sudan from Sudan in July 2011.

Quadro-relation

Although South Sudan has made friends with the three countries, there seem to be rifts between the Sudan and Egypt according to media reports.

Ethiopia had been strategic in hosting South Sudanese in the course of the liberation struggle together with Kenya and Uganda. However, there had been a row of disagreements between the Sudan and Ethiopia and Ethiopia and Egypt over natural resources like land and water. 

There had been an existent conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia over the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam which Egypt saw as a means of blocking their water consumption. Egypt depends solely on the Nile water for irrigation for food production.

Grand Renaissance Dam after completion is said to be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa. Its construction was begun in 2011 on the Blue Nile in northern Ethiopia highlands where 85 per cent of the Nile waters flow.

In mid-December, 2020, while Ethiopia concentrated on the Tigray conflict, Sudan seized the al-Fashaga borderland, evicting farmers from Amhara. Ethiopia deployed forces and militiamen which caused deadly clashes with the Sudanese troops. With fears of an escalation, the external partners have intervened and are mediating it.

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