Interview with close advisor to North Sudan ruler Omar Bashir

KHARTOUM, Sudan, Jan. 18 (UPI) — Interview with Dr. Ghazi Salahuddin Atabani, adviser for the president of Sudan and leader of the parliamentary majority:

Dealey: What has been the reaction in the North to the Southern referendum?

Atabani: Ten years ago secession was taboo. Nobody in the North wanted to hear the word “secession” at all. But interestingly, the sense I can get from many is one of relief. They feel relief that they have got rid of this problem forever, hopefully. And if the price of peace is to have separation with the South, OK, they can have it.

Q: So there’s been no political fallout in Khartoum?

A: No, there is no political fallout. Separation took place in January 2005, when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed. We were virtually separated. And I’ve always been a unionist. I pride myself on being a unionist and I never believed in separation. But the CPA laid the foundation for separation. It was inevitable, and I could read it even then, as early as Jan 2005.

Q: Looking ahead three to six months, what happens between the North and South?

A: Well, the immediate challenge will be for the two parties to try to resolve the outstanding post-referendum issues. Because these issues can be a source of tension.

There are 12 issues but the most important ones are citizenship, borders and oil revenue sharing. You have other things like the Nile waters agreement, national debts, etc. But the most critical ones are the three I just laid out because these can lead to confrontation.

If we are lucky enough to resolve those issues, in addition to Abyei, I think attention should be directed to defining the relationship between the two countries because we have a legacy there. We had a long, protracted war; there’s a perception of tension between the two parties and we need to redefine our relationship.

Everyone knows that there is not going to be a cultural or economic or social separation. The separation is going to be political and administrative. So we need to invest in strengthening social and cultural relations and economic relations. Actually, I think the two countries will be perfect candidates for a kind of economic integration to be emulated by other African countries.

Read the whole interview at UPI.com.

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