Sudan PM to meet with rebel leaders in first visit to South Sudan
Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is set to visit neighbouring South Sudan this week in his first foreign visit.
After a landmark power-sharing agreement was signed between the military and protest leaders, Hamdok took office last month as Sudan's first premier since the ousting of former President Omar al-Bashir in April.
Hamdok will travel to the South Sudanese capital Juba on Thursday to meet with Sudanese rebel forces, Media Minister Faisal Mohammed Saleh said.
Among the premier's key goals for his first months in government is to bring peace to conflict-riven Sudan.
The country faces war with rebel forces in three conflict zones in the country's - Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
Sudanese military and paramilitary forces have been accused of war crimes and widespread rights violations against civilians in the long-disenfranchised southern regions.
Hamdok has reiterated that pledge, claiming that minimised military spending brought on by peace will also help fix the country’s ailing economy.
The prime minister, along with four ministers who were officially sworn into the cabinet last week, will meet with Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF), the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), and the Sudan Liberation Forces Alliance (SLFA) in Juba, the Sudan Tribune reported.
The SRF is a key coalition representing rebel forces in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan, with rebels in the latter two states also represented by Abdulaziz al-Hilu's SPLM-N. The SLFA, led by Taher Hajer, is an alliance of rebel forces in Darfur.
Hamdok dispatched an envoy to Juba last week as the Sudanese government and rebel forces prepare to launch a comprehensive peace process.
The venue of future peace talks is reportedly up for discussion in the premier's visit to Juba this week.
Egypt, Chad and the UAE have expressed interest in hosting the discussions.
But peace with the rebels will not be the only issue on the table during the premier's first foreign visit.
Hamdok will also discuss easing the movement of people, goods and services between Sudan and its southern neighbour, which gained independence in 2011.
The visit will "mark the special relationship by the two sisterly countries", the media minister said.
While Hamdok has expressed great optimism regarding the prospects of peace for Sudan, others have not been quick to trust a government in which the military and paramilitary still hold a powerful role.
Some worry that a treaty with rebel factions will do little to alleviate the historic suffering of ethnic and religious minorities in Sudan's southern provinces.
The SRF last week called on the Sudanese government to implement confidence-building measures towards a peace deal.
Such steps include the opening of humanitarian corridors, the release of prisoners of war, the repeal of unfair sentences against rebel leaders and the return of confiscated property.