South Sudanese jittery after Khartoum shuts border

Friday April 01 2016

Displaced persons cross the Nile river to get to Minkamman on March 1, 2014. Current political rift between Juba and Khartoum that has led to border closure is likely to impact negatively on the South Sudanese who migrated from Upper Nile and Bahr Ghazal to Khartoum, in search of food. FILE PHOTO | AFP

South Sudanese have expressed their fears over the border standoff with Sudan.

The citizens of the young nation fear the closing of the border and the tensions between Khartoum and Juba could affect their lives in several negative ways.

A senior employee of the state-owned Nile Pet Oil Company, Mr Charles Juma Modi, said Khartoum's decision would aggravate human suffering, not only in South Sudan, but also in the Sudanese marginalised areas of Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile, South Kordofan and Darfur provinces.

Mr Modi said the current political rift between the two neighbours impacted negatively on the South Sudanese who migrated from Upper Nile and Bahr Ghazal to Khartoum, in search of food.

The UN High Commission of Refugees (UNHCR) last week said food insecurity had forced about 38,000 South Sudanese from the former Warrap and Northern Bahr Ghazal states to flee into Sudan’s East and South Darfur since January.

“I think Khartoum is a major source of several commodities that are much cheaper than the ones from East Africa,” Mr Modi said.


He expressed worry that Sudan could also consider blocking the pipelines which transport South Sudan oil to the international markets.

South Sudan relies about 98 per cent on oil revenue.

An economist, Mr Clement Lerat, expressed similar fears and called on the Juba authorities to quickly take appropriate measures to deal with the matter.

"We need our people to be brought back home as Khartoum has already closed down the borders connecting the two countries,” he said.

The Executive Director for African Centre for Transitional Justice (ACT-J), Mr Peter Gai Manyuon said there was nothing new about the tensions between two countries.

“Whether the border is closed or not, nothing will benefit South Sudanese at the movement. The issue of Abyei will always disrupt the relationship and cooperation agreement that was signed by both countries,” he said.

South Sudanese singer Nyibol Grace expressed dismayed over the breakdown of the diplomatic relations between the two countries, and urged both sides to revive dialogue and quickly reopen the borders for the mutual benefit of their citizens.

“I feel that it is really tragic that Sudan has closed the border with South Sudan because I understand there was dialogue on how to build key trade corridors and simplify the travel between the two countries' people," she said.

South Sudan journalist War Machor described Khartoum's decision as ‘unfortunate’, saying it would cause a humanitarian crisis in both countries.

He said both Sudan and South Sudan faced insecurity which could be worsened by the border closure.

Khartoum shut its borders with South Sudan two weeks after it accused Juba of supporting rebels, a claim the latter denies.

READ: Sudan threatens to close border with South Sudan again

Tension were further heightened after Juba accused Khartoum of bombing its territories last Saturday.