Leaders from Eastern African countries have expressed "strong support" to a proposal by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), which aims to resolve the dispute over the status of the contested region of Abyei, South Sudan’s national security minister, Oyai Deng Ajak, said Tuesday.
General Ajak was one of the senior government officials who accompanied President Salva Kiir on a trip on Sunday 13 January to the Ugandan capital, Kampala, where they held talks with President Yoweri Museveni on how to strengthen ties between the two countries.
The two heads of state, he told Sudan Tribune, also discussed expected diplomatic roles which Eastern African countries can play in helping the new nation resolve its outstanding differences with Sudan.
The African Union it is upcoming summit which will take place on 24 January will discuss the Sudanese and south Sudanese dispute over Abyei.
The African Union Peace and Security Council supported a proposal made by the mediation aiming to hold a referendum in the region without the Sudanese Misseriya nomads.
But Khartoum which is opposed to the proposal asks to continue talks sponsored by the African mediation and refuses to refer the issue to UN Security Council.
Since, both nations have been lobbying African countries to support their stance on the disputed region ahead of an AU summit.
Sudanese minister Ali Karti started Tuesday a tour to the northern African countries to explain the position of hius government. He met in Tripoli with Libyan counterpart before to head for Tunis, and Algiers.
The two vice-presidents visited last week southern, eastern and western Africa countries.
Kiir briefed his Ugandan counterpart on his recent talks with President Bashir of Sudan in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Museveni, was an ally of the former southern rebels - the SPLM - who now govern South Sudan during the civil war that led to the partition of the country in July 2011.
The Ugandan leader has been a persistent critic of the Sudanese government, with Kampala also hosting numerous Sudanese rebel, political and civil society groups.
The discussions were "successful", the minister told Sudan Tribune from Kampala on Monday.
"President Museveni, as you know stood with us during our struggle. He remains one of the African leaders still giving us unwavering supports, and has reaffirmed not only his stance and support, but also the commitment of the African leaders, particularly the Eastern African Countries to support implementation of the African Union proposal on Abyei; I mean the September proposal as the basis of resolving the dispute," Ajak said.
The latest proposal from the AUHIP has been rejected by Sudan as it allows for a referendum in Abyei not including members of the nomadic Misseriya tribe, who are not permanently residents in the area.
If the Misseriya are not accorded voting rights, the Southern-aligned population are expected to vote to transfer Abyei - defined as the area belonging to the nine Chiefdom’s of the Dinka Ngok - back into South Sudan from where it was transferred to Sudan by colonial power Britain in 1905.
President Kiir, according to Ajak, assured the Ugandan leaders of South Sudan commitment in honouring all the agreements reached with neighbouring Sudan during the last African Union summit in Addis Ababa.
At the meeting, both Kiir and his Sudanese counterpart, Omer al-Bashir agreed to implement the deal they had signed in September, covering border security, oil, citizenship and other issues.
The South Sudan leader, the ministers said, Museveni "a thorough briefing on the latest positive developments that have taken place after the last AU summit held in Addis Ababa which accorded discussions between President Salva Kiir Mayardit and Omar Hassan Al-Bashir and the agreement reached between the two presidents regarding the outstanding and pending issues between the two countries."
"The president also delivered to president Museveni a special message and New Year greetings from our people and the leadership in relation to the existing bilateral relationship between the two countries.
Our people both on Uganda side and on our side feel no difference wherever they are living. Ugandan nationals feel being at home in the Republic of South Sudan and so are South Sudanese in Uganda. This is because of our existing historical relations".
Meanwhile, President Museveni, Ajak further said, also used the opportunity to reaffirm the Uganda’s position to support the new nation both at regional and international levels.
"He assured that Uganda will always be supporting South Sudan both in the international and regional levels. He further assured that Uganda will keep its support to South Sudan until peace prevails," said South Sudan’s national security minister.
The Prime Minister of Lesotho, early this week, assured the new nation of his country’s support for the AU proposal that a referendum be held in the contested oil-producing region in October.
Motsoahae Thomas Thabane, while meeting South Sudan’s Minister for the Presidency, Emmanuel Lowilla, also urged the two Sudan’s to follow protocols of the 2005 peace deal, which ended over two decades of civil war between them.