JUBA: Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al Bashir said on Friday he wanted normal ties with his nation’s old adversary South Sudan on his first visit there since southern secession in 2011.
“I have instructed Sudan’s authorities and civil society to open up to their brothers in the Republic of South Sudan,” Bashir said alongside South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir.
Kiir said he had agreed with Bashir to continue talks to solve all outstanding conflicts between the African neighbours.
“I and President Bashir agreed to implement all co-operation agreements,” Kiir said.
Security was tight during the visit to the ramshackle capital which, like the rest of the country, has few paved roads.
Police lined main streets, which had been closed and festooned with the flags of both countries, as the leaders drove from the airport to the presidential office.
Earlier, Kiir welcomed his counterpart at Juba airport as a military band struck up their respective national anthems.
Bashir was accompanied by several high-ranking officials, including Defence Minister Abdelrahim Mohammed Hussein, Interior Minister Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamed, Oil Minister Awad Ahmad Al Jaz and intelligence chief General Mohamed Atta Al Moula, according to Sudan’s official news agency Suna.
Bashir’s visit “will be good for the future of the two countries,” South Sudanese Information minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said before Bashir’s plane touched down.
“There should be peace between the two countries,” he said.
“We are expecting good news from this visit,” Ahmed Bilal Osman, Sudan’s information minister, told Suna.
He said the trip “comes at a propitious political time after signing the cooperation agreements in Addis Ababa” and that the problems between the two states “are on the way to being solved.”
“The visit will break the barriers of lack of confidence and express good political will to implement what has been agreed.”
“Our brothers in South Sudan will only hear good words from us. We are working to narrow the area of difference and to widen the area of agreement, to prevent anything negative in the relation between both sides.”
Many South Sudanese are tired of conflict and crisis. “We need to live in harmony. We need peace between Sudan and South Sudan,” said 22-year old engineering student Robert Mori.
Edmund Yakani, head of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (CEPO) which promotes values of civil society, said Bashir’s visit showed he wanted peace.
Disagreements also remain over how much the landlocked south should pay to export its oil through Sudan.
The new African country shut down its 350,000 barrel a day output in January 2012 at the height of the pipeline fee dispute, with a devastating effect on both struggling economies.
The two sides subsequently agreed to restart oil shipments, grant each others’ citizens residency, increase border trade and encourage close cooperation between their central banks.
Last week, South Sudan re-launched crude production with the first oil cargo expected to reach Sudan’s Red Sea export terminal at Port Sudan by the end of May.
Both nations withdrew troops from border areas as agreed in an African Union-brokered deal in September. But they took until March to set up the demilitarized border zone.